We saw "Rescue Dawn" exactly six months ago (before MGM affixed it with its current winking â€” or just hopeless â€” Independence Day theatrical release date) and it’s too hazy in our mind now to give it any kind of thorough review. Still, we wanted to take a moment to salute Werner Herzog‘s supposed venture into the mainstream, which is as quietly weird and as unapologetically Herzogian as anything the director has turned out before. Many of the film’s details are recreated with remarkable precision from the stories recounted by Dieter Dengler in "Little Dieter Needs to Fly," but while in the doc you sense Herzog’s will shaping his subject into the one he wanted, in "Rescue Dawn" everything is his to define from the start, and the film ultimately takes on the strange dreamlike beauty of the shots of bombs exploding in luxurious slow motion across the Southeast Asian countryside, an image shared by both films. Dengler’s irrepressible optimism, as embodied by Christian Bale, seems initially to be almost a put-on, though as it bears up, unfaltering, through torture, imprisonment and starvation, you start to realize, as do his fellow prisoners of war, that there’s an admirable edge of madness to it. If this is indeed Herzog’s jingoistic moment, as some have chided, then we’d hate to see what his idea of criticism would look like. Dengler, Herzog’s own version of an all-American (German-born) hero, can’t possible compete at the box office with the likes of "Live Free or Die Hard," but John McClane wishes he could get an ending as great as the one in "Rescue Dawn," the best all-my-friends-are-here scene since "Inland Empire."
"Rescue Dawn" open in New York and L.A. on July 4th.
+ "Rescue Dawn" (MGM)