Register  |   Log In  |  
Sign up to our weekly newsletter    
Empire Magazine and iPad
Follow Me on Pinterest YouTube Tumblr
Trending On Empire
The Big 2015 Movie Preview
The 50 Best Films Of 2014
Review Of The Year 2014
Subscribe To Empire!
Get 12 issues from just £25
A perfect night in with EE
Win £200 to spend on the perfect night in
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

Click poster to enlarge
More posters to select

Christian Bale
Steve Zahn
Jeremy Davies
Marshall Bell
Francois Chau
Craig Gellis
Zach Grenier
Pat Healy
Toby Huss
Bonnie Z Hutchinson
Evan Jones
Abhijati 'Meuk' Jusakul
Mr Tony B King
Mr Richard Manning
Mr Garrett D Melich
Mr Kriangsak Ming-olo
Mr Yuttana Muenwaja
Teerawat Mulvilai
Somkuan 'Kuan' Siroon
Mr Chorn Solyda
Mr Saichia Wongwiroj.
Werner Herzog.
Werner Herzog.
Running Time
125 minutes

3 Star Empire Rating
I Used To Live Here
3 Star Empire Rating
Dark Horse, The
4 Star Empire Rating
Kidnapping Freddy Heineken
2 Star Empire Rating
Broken Horses
3 Star Empire Rating

Still Alice
5 Star Empire Rating
Les Miserables
5 Star Empire Rating
Duke Of Burgundy, The
5 Star Empire Rating
5 Star Empire Rating
Sweet Smell of Success
5 Star Empire Rating

Rescue Dawn
Christian Bale fuels the size zero debate

submit to reddit

The based-on-fact tale of German-American fighter pilot Dieter Dengler (Bale), who was shot down in Laos in the early stages of the Vietnam War, then incarcerated in a POW camp. There, he attempts to rally his listless comrades and stage an escape.

Rescue Dawn
Browse more images »

Christian Bale, it would seem, is at the mercy of his cheekbones. While they lend him a hacked-from-marble intensity that marks him out as the best-looking Batman yet, they’re apparently determined to pierce free of his flesh at least once every few movies - followed by his shoulder blades, ribs, hips…

How else to explain his decision to again shed girth and muscle-mass for Rescue Dawn, as he did for his wincingly skeletal performance in The Machinist? Here we see him once more hitting a masculine size zero as his character suffers the privations of POW-camp life. It’s not quite as severe as his look in The Machinist, and co-star Jeremy Davies (now less an actor than a tediously limited repertoire of tics) outdoes him in the xylophone-ribcage stakes, but you can’t fault Bale’s dedication.

It transfers well to the character of Dengler himself, for whom writer/director Werner Herzog clearly has a lot of love. Back in 1997, he documented the real-life pilot’s ‘Nam (mis)adventure in Little Dieter Needs To Fly. Coursing with Boy’s Own bravado, tempered by a will of steel, Bale’s Dengler utilises impressive survival skills to stave off starvation, boredom, abuse and even the intransigence of his fellow POWs and attempt a remarkable break-out.

Even ignoring the fact that Herzog’s already told this story, he’s on very familiar territory here, especially when Dengler and his buddy Duane (Steve Zahn) become entangled in the jungle. Echoes of Aguirre and Fitzcarraldo reverberate around Dengler’s predicament, although the latter’s ultimately delirium-tinged obsessiveness is rather less interesting given its more valiant roots. And the story rumbles along on a narrow, well-worn track that allows only the occasional small surprise, while the final moments are a little too literally uplifting. Not that it’s uninvolving; it’s just a shame to see Herzog being so, well, conventional.

Herzog’s planted rather too firmly in his discomfort zone, but Bale once again confirms himself as one of our most intense, committed and watchable actors.

Reviewed by

Write Your Review
To write your review please login or register.

Your Reviews

Average user rating for Rescue Dawn
Empire Star Rating

Rescue Dawn Review

Director Werner Herzog has once again made a compelling tale of man v.s nature, and Christian Bale completely immerses himself in the role. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by the film man at 00:27, 07 February 2012 | Report This Post

Solid Survival Film

Herzog has made a terrific film here in depicting what is truly a terrifying ordeal for a man to face. The danger, the desperation, the struggle and the fear screams out as Bale is convincingly put through torture and torment in the harsh landscape of Vietnam as a POW. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Shaunyboy27 at 14:06, 23 June 2010 | Report This Post

Rescue Dawn--good movie

Great work by Bale and Zahn. Well acted but does drag in some parts. Overall, a quality film. Bale and Zahn should have been considered for Oscar nominations. Good cinematography. Most interesting for me was the casting of Toby Huss who plays Cotton on King of the Hill--unusual but it works. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by lynnshep at 03:13, 22 July 2008 | Report This Post

Rescue Dawn!!!

In my opinion I thought it was a brilliant film! It held my attention throughout it and Bale was SUPERB!!! I loved the storyline and the actors were also great! All in all a very good film!!!! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Chimene at 17:27, 22 June 2008 | Report This Post

Very Moving.

Based on a wonderful true story, this film is frightening yet very uplifting in the end. You can feel like you are right there with them, scared that it might be your last day in horrible conditons. But he and the others decide that enough is enough and they break free from the evils of Vitenam. The perfomances were wonderful but it's Christian Bale who really shines, he is a stunning actor and damn good-looking as well. He was horrifingly skinny in the Machinist but this time it's not so bad an... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by joanna likes films at 17:53, 12 April 2008 | Report This Post

RE: Rescue Dawn

] Director/Screenwriter: Herzogring: an Bale, Steve Zahn, Jeremy Davies  psisd on the true story of Dieter Dengler (Bale), a US Fighter pilot shot down and captured in Laos during the Vietnam War. During his capture, he makes a friendship with a small group of POWs, including Duane (Zahn). Dengler decides to make an escape to the jungle.  ewer Herzog has been interested in the life of the German-American Dieter Dengler for ten years. He first got involved in Dengler's life when ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by R W at 23:43, 22 March 2008 | Report This Post

RE: Rescue Dawn

I went to see this last night at my arts centre,had been looking forward to it for months. Certainly didn't dissapoint and I have to say the time shot by.  For me I got so engrossed and the film hit you into that within the first 20 mins.  So many heartstopping moments and I was especially impressed with the cinematography,some beautiful shots paticularly the overbearing rocks and mountains. I agree I thought Jeremy Davies was excellent as the man who had clearly "lost it" and... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Magenta at 17:29, 20 January 2008 | Report This Post

RE: Rescue Dawn

L: Mojo L: Timon Bale and Zahn were fantastic but Davies (Were the hell has he been since Private Ryan) was just a frustrating dithering fool, whose point of view may have been valid....but he still needed a kicking. thought Davies was really good actually, although he did kind of play his usual kinda thing, the way uses his hands when he talks was just like his character in Solaris. I was shocked at how skinny he was as well, that can't have been healthy. ccording to ... More

Posted by Timon at 15:57, 20 December 2007 | Report This Post

RE: Rescue Dawn

Apparantly Eugene's family aren't happy with how he was portrayed in the film and there are rumours he made it out of the jungle and lived the rest of his life in Thailand...that's not confirmed though. ... More

Posted by Timon at 12:01, 20 December 2007 | Report This Post

RE: Rescue Dawn

L: Timon Bale and Zahn were fantastic but Davies (Were the hell has he been since Private Ryan) was just a frustrating dithering fool, whose point of view may have been valid....but he still needed a kicking. thought Davies was really good actually, although he did kind of play his usual kinda thing, the way uses his hands when he talks was just like his character in Solaris. I was shocked at how skinny he was as well, that can't have been healthy. ... More

Posted by Mojo at 10:47, 20 December 2007 | Report This Post

RE: Rescue Dawn

Finally caught this last night and thoroughly enjoyed it. The film did a surprising amount considering its clearly limited budget but instead of doing elaborate sequences such as the crash, Herzog focuses on the smaller aspects of the film to draw in the audience - such as Dieter's story of why he wanted to be a pilot. Bale and Zahn were fantastic but Davies (Were the hell has he been since Private Ryan) was just a frustrating dithering fool, whose point of view may have been valid...... More

Posted by Timon at 09:15, 20 December 2007 | Report This Post


I didn't really think the role needed Bale to flex his acting muscles much apart from the physical transformation, but that said it was a typically great performance. As for the movie as a whole (while undoubtedly being well made and acted) I don't think it did anything  new for POW, war or Vietnam movies. I really liked the score however - the strings really added a great deal to the hallucinatory/ desperate feeling epspecially in the bits after Bale has made his escap... More

Posted by Fluke Skywalker at 00:41, 30 November 2007 | Report This Post


I really liked this movie a brilliant trio of performances headed by the always exceptional Christian Bale. I was delighted to see Steve Zahn do such a good job with his part not to mention Jeremy Davies who brought a fantastic sub-threat to the escape plans of the gang. There were some genuinely honest scenes in this movie such as the birthday celebration in the camp which really did a great job of capturing men grasping at the real world when they are so far removed from it. It felt like a mo... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by temetnosce at 20:42, 27 November 2007 | Report This Post


I saw an early screening and I think it totally relies on its lead and supporting actors. The scenes where Dengler is tortured by the villagers before actually being put into the camp just didn't look convincing, they were shot too loosely and the editing didnt rise to the occassion, only Bale carried the scenes by genuinely looking shit scared. I'll check out the final cut and hopefully it would have been tidied up a bit. ... More

Posted by BigKovacs at 16:13, 27 November 2007 | Report This Post


A very good film. Enjoyed it thorougly.   4/5 ... More

Posted by m_er at 12:57, 26 November 2007 | Report This Post


It requires an extra star Empire!!! Great film. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Deviation at 10:25, 26 November 2007 | Report This Post

Another film for Bale in which his performance is probably better than the film itself, but that says more about his screen intensity than it does about the quality of the film. I thought it was tense, Zahn was great support. It managed to be ponderous without being boring, and raised a lot of interesting questions, definitely recommended. On a bizarre note though, there were quite a lot of young kids in the cinema where I was, I know it's a 12A but did they really expect to like it? ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by mattchoman at 09:42, 26 November 2007 | Report This Post

Rescue Dawn

The captivating central performance from Christian Bale is phenomenal. He certainly has physical commitment as he takes one hell of a beating. Also Bale’s greater feat is to make Dengler believable . Highly Recommended ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by moviemaniac2 at 20:52, 23 November 2007 | Report This Post

Rescue Dawn

I really enjoyed this, OK so maybe some of the shots did veer too close to Aguirre and Fitzcarraldo territory (not sure how many shots of misty jungle we needed to see) but I thought this was a superior take on the frankly played out Vietnam movie genre. It did seem a bit of a three way battle to see who can outdo each other in the skinny ribbed, bug eating, pants shitting, thousand yard stare method actor stakes amongst Bale, Zahn and Davies at times, but overall I thought they all acquitted... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Indio at 22:36, 20 November 2007 | Report This Post

The Fast And Furious Franchise's 7 Most Insane Stunts
In ascending order of madness...

Empire's Fast & Furious 7 Review
We run the rule on the return of Toretto, Hobbs and co

Empire Meets Alison Brie
The Get Hard star on Ken Jeong, Toto and her favourite episode of Community

17 ‘What The?’ TV Cameos From Film Directors
From Spike Jonze as a music exec to Peter Bogdanovich as… himself?

Empire Meets Nikolaj Coster-Waldau
On A Second Chance, Game Of Thrones pranks and Headhunters' poo scene

The Secrets Behind 44 Classic Cinema Sound Effects
No really, the Ringwraiths are actually plastic cups...

The 30 Greatest Superhero Movies Of All Time
Empire readers pick their top super flicks

Subscribe to Empire magazine
Get 12 Issues Of Empire For Only £25!

Get exclusive subscriber-only covers each month!

Subscribe today

Subscribe to Empire iPad edition
Get The Empire iPad Edition Today

Subscribe and save maney on annual digital subscription

Subscribe today
Buy single issues

Get 12 issues of Empire for just £25!
Get exclusive subscriber-only covers each month Subscribe today!
Empire's Film Studies 101 Series
Everything you ever wanted to know about filmmaking but were afraid to ask...
The Empire iPad Edition
With exclusive extras, interactive features, trailers and much more! Download now
Home  |  News  |  Blogs  |  Reviews  |  Future Films  |  Features  |  Interviews  |  Images  |  Competitions  |  Forum  |  iPad  |  Podcast  |  Magazine Contact Us  |  Empire FAQ  |  Subscribe To Empire  |  Register
© Bauer Consumer Media Ltd  |  Legal Info  |  Editorial Complaints  |  Privacy Policy  |  Bauer Entertainment Network
Bauer Consumer Media Ltd (company number 01176085 and registered address 1 Lincoln Court, Lincoln Road, Peterborough, England PE1 2RF)