Review of “Rescue Dawn” Written and Directed by Werner Herzog
Rating * 1/2
I thought Werner Herzog’s documentary Grizzly Man was excellent. I thought Christian Bale was superb in 3:10 To Yuma. Unfortunately, this film doesn’t display any of that talent. I can’t remember a single movie where I was so aware of the acting, writing, and direction.
This movie was independently financed and it shows. Nothing in this film feels authentic. It looks authentic, but more often than not you get the sense that you’re just watching actors on a set doing a run through in costume. Any time you see “written and directed” by the same person, it’s probably best to stay away. When one person does everything, there is no counterbalance. There is no one to say “this ain’t working.” I don’t believe in the movie by committee concept, but I do believe that the best films are the result of collaborations.
This movie is a good example of what happens when one person is given the money and the green-light to do whatever they want. Every scene plays like it was the first draft of the screenplay. What should have been an action packed film filled with suspense lacks any of those necessary components. Here’s one example: There is a scene where Christian Bale’s character uses a nail to open the handcuffs of himself and his fellow prisoners. He uses a makeshift mirror on a stick to view outside the hut where they are confined. While looking through the mirror he spots a guard walking toward the hut. Everyone races to put the cuffs back on before the guard discovers them. Okay, it’s been done a million times. The guard walks in just as everyone gets back in place. It’s a cliche, but it creates suspense. Here, the guard doesn’t even walk in. There is no close call. There is no suspense.
The prison guards are played by non-English speaking non-actors. They look as menacing as a group of illegal immigrants hanging out on a street corner looking for work. The soundtrack is almost nonexistent. This whole thing looks and feels like an expensive home movie.
The DVD has a few featurettes and a question and answer audio commentary, which is actually an interesting way to present an audio commentary. There, I’ve said something positive.