Herzog's 'mainstream' jungle drama gets mixed results
DIR: WERNER HERZOG
ST: CHRISTIAN BALE, STEVE ZAHN, JEREMY DAVIES
Poor old [b]Christian Bale[/b]. Invariably pumped up or emaciated in his roles, he’s surely tormented his body enough to deserve a role as a restaurant critic one of these days. He suffers again in Rescue Dawn, an unlikely jungle escape drama by German maestro [b]Werner Herzog[/b]. In recent years, with [b]Grizzly Man[/b], [b]The Wild Blue Yonder[/b] and others, Herzog has reasserted his claim to be a documentary maker of genius, but in his first fiction film since 2001’s lamentable Invincible, he returns to the theme of his 1997 documentary [b]Little Dieter Needs To Fly[/b].
Here he fictionalises the true story of US fighter pilot Dieter Dengler (Bale), shot down during the Vietnam war. He’s interned in harsh jungle conditions with two other Americans ([b]Steve Zahn[/b] and [b]Jeremy Davies[/b]), both brain-fried by long captivity. Bale’s mixture of desperation and boy-scout determination carry the day against brutal odds, but in a trio of mad-eyed face-offs, it’s the underrated Zahn who steals the show.
Immensely watchable, gripping and thematically of a piece with vintage Herzog dramas such as Aguirrre Wrath of God, this is nevertheless his most mainstream film, and its gung-ho ending falls horribly flat. One suspects all concerned had an utterly miserable time making it – which will no doubt have suited the self-punishing Bale just fine.