Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Flying Under the Radar

This year has been filled with some memorable movie moments. From No Country for Old Men to Michael Clayton to Hot Fuzz, we've seen some great screen gems. There are always a few great films that fly under the radar and never get noticed. As I have yet to see everything considered in most top lists, I don't know what the best movie of the year is going to be. However, I do know that a certain film flew under the radar of most critics lists and deserves a fair shot as one of 2007's best films.

The film in question is Werner Herzog's Rescue Dawn. The true story of Deiter Dengler, a German American pilot during the Vietnam War, is a riveting, harrowing and uplifting tale of survival. The story takes place early in the Vietnam Conflict when most people wouldn't have expected it would turn into a full scale war. The mission was top secret and Dengler was shot down somewhere over Laos. His capture leads to a trek through the jungle, torture and then imprisonment. His is held with only a few other hostages, two other Americans and three south Vietnemse. With the help of Dengler, they are able to escape the camp, but then are on the run from the Viet Cong, the elements and even friendly fire. The harsh Jungle is the biggest threat to the saftey of Dengler, yet through a miracle and through his ingenuity, he is able to get rescued and become a hero to many other Vietnam pilots.

Christian Bale fills the role of Deiter Dengler and, as usual, brings his A game. Throught the film, he slowly gets thinner, shaggier and more convincing in the role of an imprisoned man. Another challenging role for the actor, he doesn't miss a beat nailing the performance of a man who would not give up on his life.

The surprise joy of this film comes in the performance given by Steve Zahn. Yes, that Steve Zahn. He plays another military pilot named Duane Martin and immediately becomes a friend of Dengler. Zahn approaches his role with that borderline shell shocked attitude that so many Vietnam Vets came home with, but it comes off convincing and authentic rather than goofy or inappropriate. The relationship between Dengler and Martin is one of the films finest touches.
The other triumph is the cinematography. The wild and dangerous jungle of Laos and Vietnam is captured in all it's untouched beauty. The dangerous and safegaurds of the jungle are used to the advantage of the characters and the scenes of transit through the jungle are beautifully shot. Werner Herzog's documentary work in the past gives this feel a realistic vision which makes the story all the more riveting and exciting.
Amongst one of many movies that will be forgotten this year in the awards race, Rescue Dawn has a lot to offer. An emotional and engaging story, interesting characters with realistic struggles and gorgeous cinematography leads to one of the best film performances of the year.


j. leo said...

Yeah, I just saw this recently and loved it. The ending is kind of weird, but I'm just very curious as to why Bale and Zahn are getting no love from critics right now in awards season. Did they forget about this over the summer? THe physical performances alone were astounding, let alone the mental punishment they showed.

Drew said...

I loved this movie too, but also found the ending kind of ridiculous/hilarious. You cannot even begin to fuck with Bale's German-American accent. Dude is untouchable.

Paul Tsikitas said...

Ya gotta love how Artie the Strongest Man in the World saves the day for Christian Bale.