Rescue Dawn | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Released by MGM, starring two busy Hollywood actors, and easily slotted as a Vietnam POW adventure, this could be Werner Herzog's most commercial movie ever. But it's also elemental Herzog, a story of superhuman willpower that he first told in his moving 1997 documentary Little Dieter Needs to Fly. Christian Bale gives a committed performance as Dieter Dengler, the U.S. fighter pilot shot down over Laos in 1966 and held in a jungle camp; Steve Zahn and Jeremy Davies are compelling as Dengler's suffering prison mates, respectively drawn to and repelled by his irrepressible optimism as he plots their escape. With its clumsy treatment of the Laotian guards and its macho denouement back in the States, Rescue Dawn sometimes stumbles into Rambo territory (it was screened for U.S. troops in Iraq on Independence Day). But like much of Herzog's work, it's essentially apolitical, focusing on a man at war with his environment--and no one plunges into the foliage like he does. PG-13, 126 min. a Century 12 and CineArts 6, Webster Place. --J.R. Jones

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