Thursday, July 12, 2007

Welcome To the Jungle

Filmmaker Werner Herzog’s Aquirre: The Wrath of God (1972) may be one of the finest cinematic excursions into the jungle of all time, and a truly great film. Herzog, who never met an unforgiving landscape he didn’t like, heads back into jungle again with his latest film, Rescue Dawn, trading Aquirre’s Amazon setting for the dangers of Laos, in this bare bones retelling of the tale of American Navy pilot Dieter Dengler, shot down in 1966, captured as a POW, who became an eventual escapee. Herzog’s film adheres to the prison break genre, but it is beset with his usual preoccupations; i.e. the harsh beauty of nature, the inherent surreal-ness of being a stranger in a strange land, and yet another exploration of an impossible dreamer. Dieter is singularly inhabited by one of the big screen’s ablest chameleon’s, Christian Bale, an actor who changes his body type like Nic Cage changes hair pieces, and his fellow fugitive is played to great affect by Steve Zahn, an actor usually chosen for his shaggy dog comedic moves. It’s a harrowing, fascinating piece, and it fits snugly into Herzog’s estimable cannon. In many ways, it may be Herzog's most intriguing entry since he's unabashedly turning in a commercial (heh-heh) film in an established genre with a few name playaaahs. Yet, like Neil Young or Lou Reed, or more to the point, Orson Welles, he simply can't help reverting to his own real deal, his own sense of personal artistry. If you have a scintilla of cinematic savvy, you just know that can never be denied, Jack.

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