Rescue Dawn

Rated 4.0

Writer-director Werner Herzog recounts the harrowing experience of U.S. Navy pilot Dieter Dengler (Christian Bale), who was shot down over Laos in 1966, held prisoner in a jungle camp with a handful of other Americans and Thais, and led an escape from which only he managed to survive and reach freedom. It’s a familiar story to Herzog—he covered the same territory in his 1997 documentary Little Dieter Needs to Fly. Here, liberated from the restraints of documentary structure, he makes it a memorable, if grueling, experience, almost hallucinatory in its vision of the treacherous jungle and hostile humanity. As Dengler, Bale is a fervid presence, matched by Steve Zahn and Jeremy Davies as two fellow prisoners, their intensity underscored by the fact that they seldom speak above a wild-eyed, urgent whisper.