Empire of the Vietcong
Whilst on his first bombing mission over Laos, US Navy pilot Dieter Dengler (Christian Bale) is hit and forced to crash land in the jungle where after trying to stay hidden is found by some peasants who arrest him. Tortured and then handed over to the Vietcong who torture him some more Dieter eventually ends up in a prisoner camp where he soon discover there are just a handful of other prisoners and they have all started to go crazy. Whilst Dieter plots to escape he finds fellow prisoner Gene (Jeremy Davies) against it, but with food running out due to the American's bombing the area Dieter sets about escaping.
I once read in a review that Werner Herzog was God, well maybe that person was a little bit too enamoured with the film maker but it is fair to say that Herzog certainly doesn't make middle of the road movies. Take "Rescue Dawn" a dramatization of a real prisoner of war story and it is a visually rich movie with some great landscape shots as well as the recreation of the misery which these prisoners of war endured. There is no doubt that visually "Rescue Dawn" is impressive but without going to far to create a false epic nature which would be about of place.
At the same time Herzog has either drawn or allowed Christian Bale to deliver a complete performance and when I mean complete we are talking another movie which involves physical transformation and as such Bale lost almost 4 stone in weight for this movie. Bale was not the only one as Jeremy Davies also shed the weight to become skeletal as did Steve Zahn. But it is this physical commitment to the roles which is impressive and I would imagine that for the actors at the end of a days shoot it was difficult to come out of character.
The thing is, and this differentiates me to some critics/reviewers, whilst there is no doubt that Herzog has delivered an impressive movie and the cast lead by Bale delivered committed performances it didn't actually grab me or satisfy my need for entertainment. And the reason being is that the look combined with the performances feel too scripted and too choreographed which robs the movie of an air of naturalness which for me would have made this more engaging. Basically when you get a scene where Dieter and Gene are arguing in hushed tones you get a sense that every shake of the head and the length of time it took Dieter to look away was so rehearsed that it lost its air of spontaneity.
What this all boils down to is that "Rescue Dawn" is one of those movies which whilst perfectly entertaining is probably going to work best for those who approach cinema as a form of art rather than purely as entertainment as they will most likely appreciate the cinematography and commitment to the performances more than those who are just looking to be entertained.