Rescue Dawn

  • Review Date: November 19, 2007
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Action/Adventure
  • Release Year: 2007
  • Running Time: 125 minutes

Common Sense Media says

Intense POW film explores torture, survival.
  • Review Date: November 19, 2007
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Action/Adventure
  • Release Year: 2007
  • Running Time: 125 minutes

Age(i)

2
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17

Quality(i)

 

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Prisoners argue, then collaborate to escape; captors are brutal and cruel.

Violence

The film opens with discussion of the Vietnam War's start. Early images include bombs dropping and exploding from pilots' perspective. Dieter's plane goes down, and he falls through trees, resulting in minor (but a bit bloody) injuries. In prison camp, abuse includes beating, kicking, tying up, dragging behind vehicles, hanging upside down (including a disturbing POV shot), tying a hornets' nest to a victim's neck, shooting near the head (ears ringing effect on soundtrack), chaining to planks, and starving (prisoners become alarmingly thin). Escape involves shooting, fighting, and knifing, resulting in bloody corpses. Brutal violence includes machete attack (bloody splatter on witness' face, decapitated body visible), and leads to an unnerving hallucination/ghost.

Sex

Brief suggestive talk ("nice ass for a sailor").

Language

Military men's language includes repeated uses of "s--t," plus occasional uses of "goddamn" and "son of a bitch."

Consumerism
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Frequent cigarette smoking by pilots, prisoners, and guards.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this intense POW film isn't for younger viewers. The sometimes-bloody action (which is both heroic and not-so-heroic) is filtered through complicated historical and political contexts that aren't exactly kid friendly. Also, the prison camp abuse scenes are visceral and potentially upsetting, with violence that's both physical (beating, dragging, shooting, machete attacks) and psychological. Starving prisoners look extremely thin and weak; they also eat live maggots and a snake (these scenes are explicit). Characters smoke cigarettes, and there's some language, including "s--t."

Parents say

Kids say

What's the story?

Assigned to conduct secret bombing missions over Laos in 1965, gung-ho German-American U.S. Navy pilot Dieter Dengler (Christian Bale) plans ahead, designing a secret pocket for his U.S. passport and learning how to live off the land. This training comes in handy when his plane is shot down and he must survive in the jungle. But nothing can prepare him for his capture by Laotian guerrillas: They tie to him to stakes, drag him from a Jeep, beat him, and shoot at him. Though he's at first appalled by his mistreatment, he maintains faith in America, his adopted country. In the prison camp, Dieter gets acquainted with fellow prisoners Duane (Steve Zahn), Gene (Jeremy Davies), and local "offender" Phisit (Abhijati Jusakul). They tell him about their brutal captors and encourage him to keep a low profile. When Dieter insists that he'll escape, the others scoff, pointing to their severe surroundings, which are full of bugs, snakes, angry civilians, enemy fighters, and non-potable water. But stubborn Dieter refuses to give in, even as his escape scheme also stirs up distrust and disharmony among his fellows. He must learn to be more generous -- and even forgiving -- in order to survive.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

By turns exciting and disturbing, Rescue Dawn showcases writer-director Werner Herzog's signature interests in moral ambiguities and emotional adversities. While the wide shots of the jungle can be breathtaking, close-up scenes of abused bodies and maggots (which serve as lunch for the starving prisoners) are disconcerting. And even though the guards appear monstrous to the prisoners (with no subtitles, their dialogue remains unknown for English-only speakers), the United States' activities during the Vietnam War raise questions.

That said, the movie's individual portraits -- especially the intimate, uneven, and wonderfully strange relationship that gradually develops between Dieter and Duane -- are poignant and engrossing. While its subject matter (prisoners of war) is surely timely, its complications are timeless.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the impact of the movie's violent torture scenes. Which abuses are worse -- the physical ones or the psychological ones? Why? What is the effect of showing the violence from the victims' point of view? What statement is the movie making about prisoner abuse -- no matter who the prisoners or the captors are? How are the captors in this movie characterized? Is what they're doing different from what characters like Jack Bauer do to suspected terrorists on shows like 24? How?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:July 4, 2007
DVD release date:November 20, 2007
Cast:Christian Bale, Jeremy Davies, Steve Zahn
Director:Werner Herzog
Studio:MGM/UA
Genre:Action/Adventure
Run time:125 minutes
MPAA rating:PG-13
MPAA explanation:some sequences of intense war violence and torture.

This review of Rescue Dawn was written by

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  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Quality

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
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  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Kid, 11 years old August 31, 2009
Teen, 15 years old Written byJoey123 June 20, 2009
AGE
15
QUALITY
 

Pretty entertaining...

This movie was pretty good once it got going. However, there was some violence that sensitive teens may find a little much. The language consisted of about 15 S-words, and a few uses of many others. All in all, it was worth seeing at least once!
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much swearing
Teen, 14 years old Written by<flyboy> April 9, 2008
AGENot rated for age
QUALITY
 

Christian Bale Scores Again...

Christian Bale has acted superbly in another movie. His performance was his best... except when he was a child acting in Empire of the Sun. The movie starts off with Dieter Dengler's first assignment as a naval aviator, and after a harrowing survival struggle ends back on his ship again. The movie's cinematography was like in Saving Private Ryan- a lot of handheld camera work that made you feel more like you were there. The directing was one of Werner Herzog's best efforts. Overall, the movie ranked right up their with The Great Escape in terms of escape movies. Well Done! -

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