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RESCUE DAWN on Tastemakers

Werner Herzog is a lover of conflict. Whether it’s man vs. man, man vs. nature or man vs. himself, his films have a habit of pitting a man against the extremes. In RESCUE DAWN (2006) the man is Deiter Dengler (Christian Bale), a US Navy pilot who was shot down in Laos only 40 minutes into his very first mission in 1965 during the Vietnam War. Between surviving the crash, his Pathet Lao captors and his subsequent escape, Dengler confronted and triumphed over man, nature and himself.

Of course, deep in the jungle with a set of bearded, bedraggled, starving captives for characters is where Herzog is at his best. The actors, as you might expect, had to endure much of what their real-life counterparts did, namely starvation, delirium and the impossible physical demands of survival in the jungle. For example, when Dengler eats live worms and grubs and other mysterious creepy crawlies, Christian Bale actually ate them. When he’s dragged behind a water buffalo or hung upside down with an ant’s nest tied to his face, those aren’t special effects either. The result of this painstaking attention to detail is the realism we’ve come to expect from Herzog. There are no computer graphics, just real mean in a real environment reliving the real-life story of Dengler, the only US POW to successfully escape in the Vietnam War.

On Sundance Channel’s Tastemakers Series this month. Every week, watch a different award winning film from festivals around the globe. A series of contemporary hits and timeless masterpieces that define cool and defy limits. Sundays at 10PM E/P.