IN 1997, director Werner Herzog won numerous awards for his documentary Little Dieter Needs To Fly, a tribute to American serviceman Dieter Dengler, one of the few people to escape a Laotian prison camp during the Vietnam conflict.
Dengler sadly lost his battle with Lou Gehrig’s Disease in 2001 but Herzog revisits this remarkable episode in wartime history in Rescue Dawn, his first dramatic feature written entirely in English.Blessed with a Hollywood cast and breathtaking locales (the jungles of Thailand), the veteran filmmaker crafts a powerful testament to one man’s courage and perseverance, and the enduring power of the human spirit.
When we first meet German immigrant Dieter (Christian Bale), he is aboard the USS Ranger in the Gulf of Tonkin, keen to serve the country he now calls home.
His childhood dreams of flying are realised when he takes part in a top-secret bombing run over enemy territory.
Unfortunately, his plane is shot down and he is captured by Pathet Lao soldiers, but before long a plan to escape is hatched.
Rescue Dawn honours the memory of Dengler, played brilliantly by Bale, who wastes away before our eyes.
Co-star Steve Zahn injects black humour as the friend who sticks by him every agonising step of the way, including a nerve-racking escape bid by raft.
“Listen, do you hear that? Is that a waterfall?” asks Duane ominously as they drift downstream.