MIFF: Rescue Dawn (USA)

Rescue Dawn

A disclaimer: from all appearances, Werner Herzog lives a highly creative, highly prolific, highly nomadic existence of which I am insanely envious. I feel a pang of excitement whenever there’s an opportunity to see a new Herzog film as much because I want to vicariously inhabit his world as I want to see the movie. Nevertheless, his films are more than worthy of my attention. He has a predilection for solitary humans battling/inhabiting/conquering extreme natural environments. Whether it is the straggly blond hair of Klaus Kinski floating up a South American river, or a nutty American frolicking with grizzly bears, or geeky scientists onanistically dreaming up space stations, Herzog has been there to honour their enthusiasm, undercut their pomposity and point out their inherent shortcomings in the face of Nature (scare cap intended). In Rescue Dawn our hero (Christian Bale) is an all-American lad with his gusto, optimism and clarity of intent but, and this is the inimitable Herzog slice of irony, he is actually a German. Set in the nascent days of the Vietnam war, Rescue Dawn could be seen as a mainstream diversion for Herzog—a genre film with established Hollywood actors. However, the whole film is laced with darkly satiric elements that make fun of the Hollywood films it evokes and quietly condemn the cock-sure attitude of American imperialism. Christian Bale and Steve Zahn are excellent as the central duo, with Zahn channelling his comic expertise into the tightly-wound Dwayne. The true events that this film is based on bear a slight resemblance to another true story of jungle survival that Herzog filmed—Wings of Hope—and the two could make a compelling double feature—fictionalised / documentary, South East Asia / South America, man / woman, war / peace. For now, it makes for highly entertaining cinema all by itself.

Screening at Greater Union: Sat, 04th of August, 9:15 PM