Es­capism at its best

Werner Her­zog di­rects a mem­o­rable pris­oner-of-war drama, while Don Chea­dle is ex­cel­lent in a DJ biopic

The Jewish Chronicle - - ARTS&BOOKS - BY GER­ALD AARON

RES­CUE DAWN

(12A)

TEN YEARS ago, di­rec­tor Werner Her­zog charted the ex­ploits of Ger­man-born Amer­i­can flier Di­eter Den­gler in an Emmy Award-nom­i­nated doc­u­men­tary. Now, he re­vis­its as fiction the ex­tra­or­di­nary story of Den­gler’s cap­ture, im­pris­on­ment and tor­ture in Laos dur­ing the Viet­nam War.

Res­cue Dawn is es­sen­tially a pris­onerof-war es­cape drama. US navy pilot Den­gler (Chris­tian Bale) is shot down on his first, top-se­cret mis­sion over Laos in 1966, taken cap­tive, bru­talised and con­fined in a grim, re­mote prison camp in the jun­gle. There he meets two fel­low Amer­i­cans who have been there for two years — Duane (Steve Zahn), whose spirit has been bro­ken, and Gene(Jere­myDavies), who be­lieves they are due for im­mi­nent re­lease. Soon, Den­gler rebels against the hellish con­di­tions and draws his fel­low-pris­on­ers into an au­da­cious es­cape plan…

While the en­tire film hits hard, the fi­nal sec­tion with Dan­gler and Du- ane bat­tling through the jun­gle in a non-stop liv­ing night­mare of storms, leeches, rapids and star­va­tion is truly mag­nif­i­cent, with Her­zog us­ing Thai lo­ca­tions to con­sid­er­able ef­fect.

Zahn steps away from his usual comic per­sona to de­liver a po­tent per­for­mance which Bale — who lost al­most as much weight as he did for The Ma­chin­ist to play the ema­ci­ated es­capee — is out­stand­ing and award-wor­thy.

TALK TO ME

(15)

DON CHEA­DLE, aban­don­ing his laugh­able mock­ney ac­cent from Ocean’s Eleven and its se­quels, hap­pily re­sumes his nor­mal tones to play re­al­life for­mer-con­vict-turned-Wash­ing­ton DC disc jockey Ralph Waldo “Petey” Greene Jr in this for­mu­laic but well­made biopic which tells of how Greene be­came a leg­end of the air­waves and a spokesman for African-Amer­i­cans dur­ing the tur­bu­lent 1960s.

Chea­dle gives an ex­cel­lent ac­count of him­self. In the comic first half he barges his way into a ra­dio job, makes friends with the sta­tion’s pro­gramme di­rec­tor, Dewey Hughes (Chi­we­tel Ejio­for, ex­cel­lent), and then pro­ceeds to make his life hell with his un­ortho- dox approach to the job and his ca­reer. And he holds his own when the sec­ond half takes on a more se­ri­ous tone while di­rec­tor Kasi Lem­mons sees to it that her story re­tains its mo­men­tum.

SLEUTH

(15)

AN­THONY SHAF­FER’S in­ge­nious two-han­der was a de­served stage suc­cess but trans­ferred to the screen less ef­fec­tively when Lau­rence Oliver both chewed up the scenery and costar, Michael Caine in Joseph L Mankiewicz’s 1972 film ver­sion.

So why re­make it? This re­dun­dant ef­fort, poorly scripted by Harold Pin­ter has more twists than a crooked ac­coun­tant.Sadly,fe­wofthe­mare­cred­i­ble­while his “new” end­ing does to Shaf­fer what, to quote the great Ernst Lu­bitsch in To Be or Not to Be, “Hitler did to Poland”.

For the record, Caine re­turns in the lead role of mil­lion­aire thriller writer Andrew Wyke and en­gages in a sin­is­ter game of wits with un­em­ployed ac­tor Milo Tin­dle (Jude Law).

Caine, frankly, is not up to even the de­mands of the Pin­ter-mu­tated role, rapidly los­ing his up­per-crust ac­cent in favour of familiar Caine-speak while Law em­bar­rasses him­self and the au­di­ence.

When, af­ter 32 in­ter­minable min­utes, Law as Tin­dle says: “I’m not en­joy­ing my­self,” I couldn’t have agreed more heartily. Un­for­tu­nately there were some 54 more min­utes to come.

THE DAR­JEEL­ING LIM­ITED

IT’S PROB­A­BLY my fault, but I haven’t en­joyed any of Wes An­der­son’s movies, which in­clude Rush­more, The Royal Ten­nen­baums and The Life Aquatic With Steve

(15) Zis­sou. I found them just a tad too arch and rather too self-sat­is­fied for my taste.

The Dar­jeel­ing Lim­ited is no ex­cep­tion. Brothers Peter (Adrien Brody), Francis (Owen Wil­son) and Jack (Ja­son Schwartz­man, who cowrote the anaemic screen­play with An­der­son and Ro­man Cop­pola) em­bark on the epony­mous rail­way train for a jour­ney across In­dia, hop­ing to end their mu­tual es­trange­ment and re­unite them with their mother (An­jel­ica Hus­ton, wasted in a cameo) who has en­tered a con­vent.

A lot hap­pens be­fore the turgid trio are thrown off the train and are forced to trek through the arid coun­try­side, but none of it is par­tic­u­larly in­ter­est­ing. At­trac­tive lo­ca­tions, beau­ti­fully pho­tographed by Robert Yeo­man, re­main in the mind.

The lack­lus­tre com­edy-drama does not.

Chris­tian Bale plays Amer­i­can flier Di­eter Den­gler in a grip­ping es­cape drama based on a true story

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