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Rescue Dawn


Stars: Christian Bale, Steve Zahn, Jeremy Davies, Galen Yuen, Zach Grenier, Marshall Bell

Director: Werner Herzog

An often gripping if rather prolonged story of an epic battle for survival. It's 1965 and the preliminary skirmishes that will lead to the Vietnam War are well under way. On a secret mission over Laos, German-born US fighter pilot Dieter Dengler (Bale) is shot down. After a couple of days dodging the enemy he's captured and - after being hung up with a wasps' nest round his neck, water-tortured in a narrow well and dragged along the ground by an ox - shunted off to a primitive prison camp, run by Laotians with all the gentility of wartime Japanese.

Dieter and his fellow captives, including jittery Dwayne (Zahn) and borderline nutter Gene (Davies) are locked in stocks at night, and badly treated (and starved) by day, having to eat monster lice to survive.

The inventive Dieter, however, first fashions a nail to unlock the stocks, then hatches a plan to escape, to which the others - despite Gene's rebellious muttering - agree. Their plan goes like clockwork, except that Dieter and Dwayne end up participating alone.

It would be nice to know what happens to the others, but we never do, and the film develops into Dieter's and Dwayne's heroic, exhausting efforts to escape to Thailand. The extended ending is something of an anti-climax, but the harrowing body of the film - not least another committed, body-wrenching performance from Bale - makes it worth a watch.

David Quinlan

USA/Thailand 2006. UK Distributor: Pathe (MGM). Colour by deluxe.
106 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 0, Swearing 1.

Review date: 18 Nov 2007