Monkey Reviews

Through the Eyes of A Chimp

Monkey Reviews
February 10, 2008
Rescue Dawn – Chimp Goes P.O.W.

We had this movie sitting on the shelf for a couple of weeks but just couldn’t get around to watching it. Maybe there was too much other stuff too watch, or maybe, more likely, I was putting it off. It has all the makings of a typical war movie – fighter pilot gets shot down and captured by the enemy followed by years in a P.O.W. camp. It’s not the first genre on my “must-see” list but it’s one of those genres that potentially carries a lot of depth and is often a window into a time and place, other than my own. Most war movies not only delve into lessons of character but they are also historically enlightening and so I knew, despite my hesitancy, that I would not be sorry at the end of Rescue Dawn.
Rescue Dawn is not typically a war movie just for the simple fact that it takes place in 1965 Laos – just prior to the official start of the Vietnam War. It is inspired by the true account of Lt. Deiter Dengler, a U.S. Army pilot stationed at the Bay of Tonkin. That was my first lesson – apparently the Bay of Tonkin is historically significant. I’ve included a little quote found on Google: “The Bay of Tonkin incident where a North Vietnamese PT boat allegedly attacked a USA warship was the excuse the government of USA used to go full throttle into Vietnam.” The operative word is “allegedly”.

What rescues this movie from usual American propaganda fare is that the story takes on a very individual feel. It doesn’t hurt that the director, Werner Herzog, a German, is more compelled to tell the story of a man who responds with character and hope in the face of torture and imprisonment as opposed to telling the grand and sweeping tale of a great nation. Deiter is the main player but his story is made that much more rich by his relationships and interactions with his fellow prisoners; interactions that aren’t always positive or tension-free. Interactions that come across the screen as being real and three-dimensional.

Rescue Dawn is a story of hope without being trite or superficial. It is a story of a deep character; Deiter had resilience, hope and stamina but never without a good dose of humour or a heart that was open, even to those who were his enemies. I don’t want to forget to emphasize that the film sets itself apart because of it’s artistic quality. It’s the little touches that make this true – the cinematography, the sound-track, the dialogue, the expressions that went beyond words (thanks to some amazing acting). Rescue Dawn in a way is understated and yet at the same time quite powerful on many different levels. It feels both down to earth and transcendent. The Monkey loved it … and not just for the jungle scenes.