Saturday, December 01, 2007

Rescue Dawn: Grade B

Rescue Dawn (2006)
Christian Bale, Steve Zahn. Director Werner Herzog
Bale is a Navy pilot shot down over Laos during the Vietnam war. He is quickly captured and meets a half dozen other prisoners in a bamboo POW camp. Privation is severe and some of the prisoners (Zahn) are so frighteningly thin that you have to wonder what was going on with the production company. That’s a severe medical condition when a person looks like a skeleton. It is very disturbing to look at. Why did they film it with such disregard for the actors' health?

Eventually Bale hatches an escape plan, despite not knowing where they are and the fact that the U.S. military was in Laos illegally anyway. For reasons that are not clear, only Bale and Zahn escape into the jungle and a buddy situation develops as they hack their way “forward,” toward what, neither they nor we know. There isn’t much story tension. They are not being chased but they are lost, hungry, and desperate. Zahn collapses from weakness and Bale is soon thereafter rescued by a US helicopter that miraculously appears.

Zahn’s acting is especially convincing. Bale does a fine job too, but his character remains an unreflective, single-minded, can-do soldier. The character is drawn perfectly, but doesn't develop over time. Nothing affects him. He eats maggots and bites into raw snakes without hesitation, because he must. The movie is enjoyable because of the realistic sense of time and place you get from it, not because of the weak story and static characters. The portrayals of the people and jungle settings are so realistic you can feel the heat and smell the rain. Costumes and sets are perfect. Music is unobtrusive, and the cinematography is verdant. A little character development would have made the movie perfect.

No comments:

Post a Comment