Rescue Dawn

July 27th, 2007


Rescue Dawn

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Christian Bale and Werner Herzog in Rescue DawnStill of Steve Zahn in Rescue DawnSherri Saum at event of Rescue DawnStill of Christian Bale and Steve Zahn in Rescue DawnStill of Jeremy Davies in Rescue DawnStill of Steve Zahn in Rescue Dawn

A US Fighter pilot's epic struggle of survival after being shot down on a mission over Laos during the Vietnam War.

Release Year: 2006

Rating: 7.4/10 (48,908 voted)

Critic's Score: 77/100

Director: Werner Herzog

Stars: Christian Bale, Steve Zahn, Jeremy Davies

In 1965, while bombing Laos in a classified mission, the propeller plane of the German-American US Navy pilot Dieter Dengler is hit and crashes in the jungle. Dieter is arrested by the peasants, tortured by the Vietcong and sent to a prisoner camp, where he meets five other mentally deranged prisoners and guards. He becomes close to Duane and organizes an escape plan; however, the unstable Gene opposes to Dieter's plan. When they discover that there is no more food due to the constant American bombings in the area and their guards intend to kill them, Dieter sets his plan in motion. However, an unexpected betrayal splits the group and Dieter and Duane find that the jungle is their actual prison.

Zach Grenier - Squad Leader
Marshall Bell - Admiral
Christian Bale - Dieter Dengler
Toby Huss - Spook
Pat Healy - Norman
GQ - Farkas (as Gregory J. Qaiyum)
James Oliver - Jet Pilot
Brad Carr - U.S. Navy Pilot
Saichia Wongwiroj - Pathet Lao Guard
François Chau - Province Governor (as Francois Chau)
Teerawat Mulvilai - Little Hitler (as Teerawat 'Ka-Ge' Mulvilai)
Yuttana Muenwaja - Crazy Horse
Kriangsak Ming-olo - Jumbo
Somkuan 'Kuan' Siroon - Nook the Rook
Chorn Solyda - Walkie Talkie

Taglines: A true story of survival... declassified.


Official Website: Gibraltar Films | MGM [United States] |

Release Date: 27 July 2007

Filming Locations: Alameda, California, USA

Box Office Details

Budget: $10,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend: $110,326 (USA) (8 July 2007) (6 Screens)

Gross: $5,483,509 (USA) (21 October 2007)

Technical Specs


Did You Know?

Jeremy Davies lost 33 pounds for his role.

Incorrectly regarded as goofs: During his captivity, Dieter is shown wearing his gold wedding band - it is generally regard as something no American pilot would do. However, on the DVD Walter Herzog explains a deleted scene where Dieter's ring is almost stolen. When the guards are transporting Dengler to prison they stop at a village. A man there threatens to kill Dieter unless he gives him his ring-a gift from his fiancée. When they leave the village Dieter tells the guards his ring was stolen and they return to the village. The guards cut off the villager's ring finger and return Dieter's ring to him. This is a factual event that haunted Dengler the rest of his life.

[first lines]
Title Card: In 1965, few people believed that the still limited conflict in Viet Nam would turn into full scale war. / One of the first signs of what lay ahead was America's bombing of secret targets inside Laos.

User Review

One Flew over the Bamboo Hut

Rating: 9/10

For me, Werner Herzog will always be remembered for his haunting 1979 remake of "Nosferatu." Next to the silent-era original, it's probably the greatest artistic statement ever put to film on the myth of the vampire. Apart from that, he's been one of those fascinatingly enigmatic European infant-terrible directors, brazenly going against the studio system and doing whatever he damn well pleases, be it documentaries or bizarre art films. "Rescue Dawn" comes as a huge surprise, and proving that he still does whatever he pleases, is a dramatized version of the true story of Vietnam POW Dieter Dengler that Herzog previously filmed as a documentary in 1997 entitled "Little Dieter Needs to Fly." Masterfully realized, "Rescue Dawn" emerges as Herzog's most accessible film. After over 30 years of film-making, he's gone "Hollywood" but has done it on his own terms.

"Rescue Dawn" features classical and feverishly transcendent direction from Herzog, breathtaking cinematography of Laos and Vietnam from Peter Zeitlinger, a triumphant and evocative music score from Klaus Bedelt, and Oscar-worthy performances from an amazing cast. In the lead role of Dieter, Christian Bale once again puts his whole body into the character (as he did in "The Machinist"). Bale has become one of those rare actors whose every role seems to be the performance of his career. Also noteworthy are Jeremy Davies ("Saving Private Ryan," and "Ravenous") as Eugene from Eugene, Oregon, who seems to always get cast as the most emotionally unstable soldier, and a shockingly good and sympathetic Steve Zahn as Duane. Herzog puts the cast through the ringer in artistically rendered depictions of torture, horror, and survival in the harshest of conditions. Even in some of the most cringe-worthy scenes, Herzog turns what could've been wallowing on its head--witness the fantastic transition from Bale eating live worms and one crawling in his beard to a beautiful caterpillar leisurely making its way across a leaf in the peaceful jungle.

Essentially what we have here is the war-movie version of Milos Foreman's "One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest" as Herzog depicts a group of average men who were slightly crazy already becoming increasingly more mad through involuntary imprisonment. While Bale's character refuses to be held down and is constantly trying to keep his brain and skills sharp through plotting an escape, some of his fellow prisoners are rendered hopeless as they have turned their own minds into the most impenetrable walls. Herzog does a great job of depicting tiny bits of humanity and dignity shining through in the most inhumane conditions, and how the will to survive can triumph over death. He's somehow crafted a movie that is both boldly anti-establishment and unapologetically pro-soldier and patriotism. Being based on a true story where the ending is known to the viewer doesn't take away from the white-knuckle suspense and human drama. Unlike Foreman's classic from the 1970's, where Jack Nicholson (mirrored here by Bale) flew over the cuckoo's nest and disappeared into his own insanity, Herzog gives up hope. One flew over the bamboo hut...and he made it.


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