Thursday, November 29, 2007

Rescue Dawn

I don’t really need to write about ‘Rescue Dawn’. Tim’s review on Antagony & Ecstasy nails it.

Herzog’s source material – the plight of German-American pilot Dieter Dengler, shot down over Laos, imprisoned by the non-Geneva-Convention-friendly Vietcong and forced to survive inhospitable jungle conditions after he escapes – is something the director has already dealt with in his astounding documentary ‘Little Dieter Needs to Fly’.

True, re-approaching the story as a Hollywood-backed (and therefore decently budgeted) feature film means that Herzog can tackle it on a much broader canvas. And what he delivers is a compelling, well-made, brilliantly-acted slice of mainstream film-making.

But, as Tim pointedly asks, Who the holy fuck wants Werner Herzog to be a consummate professional?

If all this sounds like I’m gearing up to give ‘Rescue Dawn’ a slating, that’s not the case. There’s much to admire: it’s pacy, graced with terrific performances (Herzog manages to elicit a performance from Steve Zahn that doesn’t involve goofing around and being a wise-ass – and that’s saying something!), and is refreshingly non-judgemental in its observational portrayal of the VC, lifting the film far beyond the usual ‘grunts and gooks’ characterisations that typify American productions of this ilk.

And yet … and yet … this is Herzog in the jungle. This should be ‘Aguirre’ with planes, ‘Fitzcarraldo’ goes ’Nam. What it is, ultimately, is a dichotomy. It’s simultaneously one of the best things I’ve seen in a multiplex this year and arguably the most ordinary thing in Herzog’s filmography.

1 comment:

The Film Connoisseur said...

Hey man I feel the same. Its Herzog, but it aint Herzog going crazy in the jungle like he's done in his previous films.

Though some of the stories that Christian Bale had to tell about the making of this movie do make it sound like they went through hell making it!

I wrote a review on it a few days back on my blog, Im a Herzog fan as well man, I love all his films!
Maybe not all, but most. I really didnt enjoy The Enigma of Kasper Hauser. But Ive enjoyed everything else he's done.