I went into Rescue Dawn with excitement to see Christian Bale in another powerhouse performance. He's turning into a fascinating actor who takes the kinds of roles that Johnny Depp used to take. However, my enjoyment of the film stemmed less from Bale and more from director Werner Herzog who has crafted a beautiful and suspenseful film.
In fact, Bale is just standard in this tale. He plays an American pilot shot down over Laos in the months leading up to the Vietnam war. He is taken prisoner and leads a disastrous escape. The story is ripe with tension and pathos. Herzog makes sure you feel everything, from the torture to the mind numbing of being held prisoner, the stress of the danger in escaping to the desperation of thirst and hunger once out in the wilds.
He shoots the film in a pseudo-documentary style and he exposes the film to create a beautiful colour palette. It's stunning to watch. Even just the natural beauty around our hero. Can he appreciate it as he is struggling to survive?
As I mentioned, I didn't find this to be one of Bale's masterful performances. Maybe it is his strength that the character is portrayed in a manner which doesn't feel "performed." Still, he isn't as riveting here as he normally is.
Only the ending seems off. It doesn't fit with the rest of the film and seems to come from no where. It's certainly reassuring but it doesn't have the same feel of the film and kind of takes you out of it. Otherwise, Rescue Dawn is very enjoyable and worth checking out.