Reviews - Rescue Dawn
Reviewed By John Stakes
Dengler’s amazed and slightly crazed look was understandable. It is 1965 and some six months earlier his commanders had sent him on a foolhardy mission over enemy territory into Laos towards the Ho Chi Min Trail; left him and fellow longer standing POWs to fester in a camp a few yards away from where he came down it seemed; and tried to shoot him down when he torched an abandoned village to attract their attention !
After all these indignities Dengler’s jungle experiences were somewhat tamer. He and a couple of other eccentrics had managed to escape during their guards’ lunchbreak up to which point their gaolers had seemed only marginally more interested in them than their own commanders. Dengler’s desire to escape had intensified when he learned that food supplies to the camp were running out and the guards were keen to return to their families.
Having escaped Dengler found the jungle fodder slightly more palatable ( snake ) than lunch in the camp ( maggots ) and gave him the strength to build ( how ? ) a substantial raft when a river was reached whilst caring for for a fellow POW Duane ( Steve Zahn ) who was mentally and physically on his last legs. Undeterred by an attack of leeches Dengler manages to avoid capture when Duane is killed and eventually completes his escape and is rescued by waving a couple of palm leaves when standing in a clearing and attracting the correct attention of a passing US helicopter when all his previous village fire raising efforts had failed.
Director/writer Werner Herzog’s love of landscape is a feature of his film making and here it was by far the most impressive aspect of the film, presenting protection and danger in equal measure. Not perhaps amongst the elite of POW movies, but its quirky feel and idiosyncrasies held attention, and the film was an enjoyable addition to the wide range of genres on offer this season.
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