Rescue Dawn is unique among war films. It's not the fast paced action thriller of so many fictionalized war movies, yet it offers the story of a real man told tastefully through suspense and drama. For those looking for graphic battle gore, this isn't the movie for you. If you can take the time to study and appreciate how a horrendous situation can impact a man's thoughts and identity, you will find a lot to learn from here.
Christian Bale plays Dieter Dengler, a pilot shot down at the onset of the Vietnam War in neighboring Laos. He miraculously survives the crash and has to contend with his capture and reeducation by his communist captors. He is eventually taken to a camp where there are other Americans. The rest of the plot, while long, is best experienced without an outline.
Bale's acting is great. The supporting cast is equally as impressive, especially Steve Zahn as Duane and Jeremy Davies as Gene. The lush rain-forest is also a character in this movie, and the cinematography beautifully captures one of the world's most awe-inspiring and dangerous places.
The story was previously told in Werner Herzog's documentary, "Little Dieter Needs to Fly." Little Dieter Needs to Fly The script is nicely written, but much of it still comes across as a documentary. The director uses suspense and time to convey the anxiety of the situation. That's part of the reason wider film audiences are turned off or left wanting more.
I suspect that this movie would have had more visual impact in theatres. Unfortunately, it never reached wide theatrical release in the USA. The closest viewing most of us can have is to try to see the Blu-Ray version, which is visually stunning.
Ultimately, what will a man do to survive such an ordeal? What would you do to survive? This movie is a careful study that will appeal to film lovers. It isn't pro or against anything. It is simply the story of one man's ordeal.