Screened as part of NZIFF 2007

Rescue Dawn 2006

Directed by Werner Herzog

Maverick director Werner Herzog treads close to the mainstream with this tale of a German-American fighter pilot (Christian Bale) who escapes a Viet Cong POW camp in Laos in 1965.

USA In English and Vietnamese with English subtitles
126 minutes 35mm

Director, Screenplay


Peter Zeitlinger


Joe Bini


Klaus Badelt


Christian Bale
Steve Zahn
Jeremy Davies
Galen Yuen


Toronto 2006; Rotterdam 2007


Maverick director Werner Herzog has built a formidable reputation in exploring obsessive characters in gruelling films like Aguirre, The Wrath of God, Fitzcarraldo and Grizzly Man. These gut-wrenching stories are also about people out of their depth, out of place, and determined to fight impossible odds. So too with Rescue Dawn, which finds Herzog treading closer to the mainstream than he has before. Christian Bale gives an astounding performance as Dieter Dengler, a German-American fighter pilot who was shot down over Laos in 1965. Captured and viciously tortured by the Viet Cong, Dengler seized an opportunity to escape, taking two American POWs with him. Expanding upon his 1997 documentary Little Dieter Needs to Fly, Herzog once again blurs the line between fiction and reality, while avoiding the obvious temptation to delve into political allegory.

“Indeed, at times Bale seems to be channeling some of the crazed intensity of the late Klaus Kinski, star of [Fitzcarraldo]. Slimmed down… almost to the anorexic weight he achieved for The Machinist, Bale proffers a remarkably physical performance that also shares some of Kinski’s grace in motion.” — Leslie Felperin, Variety.

“No one can shoot men in the jungle like Herzog. His peerless depictions of men dwarfed by hostile landscapes of breathtaking beauty are enhanced here by the high-contrast colour-saturated photography of Peter Zeitlinger. A small but realistic mudslide or a swarm of leeches pack more dramatic punch than the large-scale obstacles put in the way of soldiers in most effects-driven war films.” — Matt Riviera, Last Night with Riviera