Sunday, December 16, 2007


RESCUE DAWN (Werner Herzog, 2006, USA) Herzog reinvents his documentary LITTLE DIETER NEEDS TO FLY as a feature film about the true story of Lt. Dieter Dengler who is shot down during the Vietnam War and held prisoner in the unforgiving jungles of Laos. Christian Bale plays Dieter with a subtle flair of hope and passion as he focuses on escaping and trying to convince his fellow captives of his daring plan. But the other prisoners realize that they can’t survive in the deadly jungles so they bide their time and wait for rescue. Though Bale’s acting is fine, it’s Jeremy Davies skeletal performance that is truly convincing as Gene, a pilot who has been in captivity for two years and whose mental and physical health is questionable. This is not an action film! This is a psychological drama that unfolds layer by layer as we realize that the geography is as much a prison as the shackles and walls. When Dieter and his cohort Duane (Steve Zahn) disappear into the jungle are they really any better off? I would have liked the ending to be more subtle and downcast, reflecting the isolation and loss that Dieter must have felt even though a cheering crowd surrounds him. But who am I to tell Werner Herzog how to make films? (B-)
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GRIZZLY MAN (Werner Herzog, 2005, USA) Acclaimed filmmaker Werner Herzog delivers a documentary that is absolutely entertaining and shares with us a frightening glimpse into one man's tortured soul. This is a film that doesn't deify or demonize its subject but allows us a voyeuristic peek into the life Timothy Treadwell, self-proclaimed protector of the Grizzly-Bears, where we are made to subjectively define his actions within our own intellectual, theological, and philosophical boundaries. Herzog is spot-on with his thoughtful insights and doesn't sensationalize Treadwell's actions or his demise: when he listens to the audio tape of Treadwell's death, we see only the reaction of his friend and the sadness in his voice. A filmmaker with less integrity could have played the awful scene. This is a film about a man who was fighting a war; not against poachers, or an ambivalent government, rude tourists, or other imagined intruders in "his" sanctuary...but a spiritual war against himself. Who was Timothy Treadwell? I doubt if even he knew. (B)

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