Rescue Dawn (Blu-ray)

January 28, 2012 6 Min Read

Review by: Fusion3600

Plot: What’s it about?

Dieter Dengler (Christian Bale) was a pilot for the United States Navy during the early days of the Vietnam War, when he was shot down over Laos. He survived the incident, but once on the ground he was captured by Viet Cong soldiers and had to endure torture and abuse of a brutal nature. After the hardships suffered soon after capture, Dieter was taken to a Viet Cong prisoner of war camp, where conditions weren’t much better. There he meets up with fellow prisoners Duane Martin (Steve Zhan), Pisidhi Indradat (Abhijati Jusakul), and Gene DeBruin (Jeremy Davies), whom he strikes up quick bonds with. As the months pass, Dieter has one goal in mind and that is to escape the camp, but that is no simple task. He hatches a plan to leave the camp and take the others with him, but even he escapes the camp, what happens next?

Rescue Dawn is dark, depressing, and brutal. As based on the real life story of Dieter Dengler, Rescue Dawn takes us inside a world of nightmares that few have experienced, let alone survived. Werner Herzog directs and he is no stranger to Dieter’s incredible story, as he directed a documentary on the subject, titled Little Dieter Needs to Fly. As I said, this is dark stuff and to be honest, I still don’t understand how the movie was passed as PG-13, as this is harrowing content presented in realistic fashion. As crushing as it can be at times, Rescue Dawn is about the endurance of the human spirit. In other words while the story is brutal and hard to handle, there is hope and that drives the entire experience. In the end, Rescue Dawn is a powerful and memorable motion picture, one that is hard to watch, but deserves to be seen. This Blu-ray edition retains all of the extras from the standard release, adds in some new ones, and offers video & audio upgrades, so this release earns a high recommendation.

Video: How does it look?

Rescue Dawn is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. The visuals start off a little rough, but soon smooth out and provide a sharp, refined presentation. The jungle landscape looks impressive here, with lush greens, natural browns, and bright blues that really bring the environments to life. I found black levels to be spot on also, with rich contrast that never obscures detail or blooms. As far as detail, the image is clear and offers good depth. I wouldn’t call it razor sharp, but the visuals look terrific and this transfer is a major step up from the standard release. I did notice a few minor issues here and there, but overall this transfer is superb.

Audio: How does it sound?

Also impressive is the lossless DTS HD 5.1 soundtrack, which surpassed my expectations and then some. I was most impressed with the subtle atmospheric elements, which make the jungle location seem like its your theater room. The smallest touches come alive here, so don’t be surprised if you try to swat some flies or look over your shoulder when you hear leaves rustle. The mix isn’t shy about power either, as it can get loud and it does. The power usually comes in bursts, some of which come out of nowhere, so this is one track that will keep you on edge. I do think some will be bothered by the low dialogue levels at times, but that is part of the movie’s world, so we can’t complain much. This disc also includes French and Spanish language tracks, as well as subtitles in English and Spanish.

Supplements: What are the extras?

As far as new goodies, there is a unique, but problematic Vietnam Memorial option, in which you can read about some of the fallen soldiers. The idea is fantastic, but the execution is a little off here and it can be troublesome to navigate. Also new are a trivia track and an eight minute featurette on survival with Vietnam pilots. The rest of the extras are ported over from the DVD, such as Werner Herzog’s audio comments. He has so much insight here, its hard to believe it all fits in one session, so if you’re a fan of his work, this movie, or Dieter’s story, don’t miss this track. A four part documentary adds up to a little under a hour of material, with a decent inside look at the production. A good deal of ground is covered from conception to completion, with only a minor amount of retread topics from Herzog’s commentary track. This disc also includes some deleted scenes, as well as the film’s theatrical trailer.

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