Friday, 22 May 2015

Alternate Best Actor 2007: Christian Bale in Rescue Dawn

Christian Bale did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Dieter Dengler in Rescue Dawn.

Rescue Dawn is an effective film depicting the attempt to escape from pow camp during the Vietnam war.

I might as well get the negative out of the way first. Bale plays Dieter Dengler as German born American citizen who has joined the air force. Bale plays the role with an American accent, which he does well, but the real Dengler still had a German accent. Now I try not to be overly punitive towards accents, as they shouldn't make or break a performance all on their own. Here it just happens to be a bit more noticeable since his German background is frequently mentioned and they even go so far as to call him the Kraut in the prison camp. It's somewhat distracting that he does not at all seem German given how it is mentioned, and an good German accent would helped to further distinguish Dieter from the other prisoners. With that out of the way, let's take a look at the real meat of his performance. The film opens with Dieter being briefed for his secretive combat mission in Laos along with his comrades. Although I do like the film a great deal there is something odd about these early scenes, and the final scenes, in that director Werner Herzog handles them in such a vastly different tone than the main section of the film.

These scenes seem from a different film, a very different kind of war movie, which is kinda lighthearted. It is hard to tell if Herzog is just uncomfortable out of the discomfort of the jungle, or this was purposefully done to show just how different the world can be depending on your situation. Either way Bale's performance is also fairly light here. Bale is not an actor with a natural charm, but in these scenes he makes Dieter just a likable enough guy as he jokes around and prepares for his mission along with his friends. The fun does not last very long though as Dieter is shot down during the mission and left to try to find his way back in the wilderness. This is where Bale excels as he portrays Dieter's trying to survive while attempting to avoid being captured by roaming patrols. Bale is terrific here in realizing the moment in his performance in terms of reflecting the way the crash shatters the certain confidence he had in the lighthearted scenes as he becomes a man bent on survival above else. Bale does very well to make every moment as he recovers from the crash, and attempts to find something feel genuine. He gives the needed truth to environment through his reactions to what is around him.

Dieter is quickly captured though leaving him at the hands of some cruel men, who almost use him as a prop for awhile. Bale's very good here as he brings a certain manic intensity to Dieter, and shows the fear of the man being unable to know what his captors are saying while being unable to communicate with them himself. There is one especially powerful moment where the guards casually take a pot shot at him, and Bale delivers the extreme terror that grips Dieter as he screams at them never to do that again. Eventually Dieter is asked to sign a propaganda statement against the United States. It's a relatively short scene, but one that Bale uses to further Dieter's character. As Dieter explains he was in no way looking for war Bale delivers this statement with certain exasperation. Not towards the present condition, but rather towards his past acknowledging the war torn country he was born in at the time. When he is pressed to sign though Dieter refuses and its a great moment for Bale. Bale does not make it an overly passionate statement against his captor, but rather quietly states his reasons and turns him down. Bale though in this matter of fact delivery though does reflect an earnest pride that Dieter has for his adopted country.

Eventually Dengler is brought to a camp with other prisoners, and Bale is rather affecting in just a short moment where he portrays such excitement at finally seeing a friendly face in another prisoner. After being in solitary briefly he is allowed to interact with the others, and I suppose I should not complain too much about the accent to distinguish Dieter from the others, since Bale does that so well with the rest of his performance. While the other men are all at one level or another of suffering, and some developing a bit of madness, Bale stands out by showing how Dieter is different. Dieter firstly is not nearly as beat up, although Bale does gradually develop his own wear as well. Bale though keeps an enthusiasm in Dieter as he plays it as Dieter never becomes oppressed by the camp, rather taking the condition of the other men as a motivation for his escape. Interestingly though Bale though kinda brings his own madness, but that of a different kind. His madness is that of the dreamer, as Bale shows Dieter's head still seems in the skies a bit, where he most wants to be out of anywhere, which seems to help inspire him to always be working towards his plan.  

Bale sets Dieter aside from the others, finding well kinda the excitement of the escape as he figures one new idea to help initiate the plan. Bale though does not keep Dengler at a distance though and does naturally create a camaraderie with the other men particularly Duane (Steve Zahn). There's a warmth Bale realizes with him, and even a little with almost all of the other men, even one guard, in low key but poignant manner. The escape is a success, in terms of getting out of the camp, but it in many ways goes wrong as only Dieter and Duane go off together in the jungle. Bale is outstanding in these scenes as he also begins to lose heart and Bale plays it as though it starts to become harder for him to try to encourage Duane to go on. Bale is especially good whenever Dieter fails to flag down American helicopters as he shows just how devastated Dieter is every time they ignore him, and in one case even try to kill him. Both men are brought to the point that they take the risk and try to find help from villagers which costs Duane his life. In the final scenes until his rescue Bale is outstanding as he shows Dieter at his end. Although, as usual for Bale, he depicts Dieter physically at his end about as realistically as one probably can, more pivotal is his depiction of Dieter final mental state. Bale's stare is that of a man almost lost in his mind now as he goes through the motions of survival, having lost the enthusiasm of the escape, and is heartbreaking by realizing how the loss of Duane has left him. When he is rescued the film returns to that other tone, but I would not say Bale does. Bale does his best to sell the almost excessively inspirational ending. He certainly presents the overpowering relief and happiness fitting for a man who has gone through Dieter's ordeal, but the real power comes from Bale having brought Dieter through all of it from his crash, through every horror of the camp and the jungle, to his final deliverance.

69 comments:

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

Eh, I thought he overplayed it a bit. Preferred Zahn much more.

luke higham said...

Louis: Ratings & Thoughts on the rest of the cast.

Matt Mustin said...

I think he's good here, as usual, but I prefer him in 3:10 to Yuma to be honest.

mcofra7 said...

I have to agree with Koook on this one. Zahn was heartbreaking and would be worthy of a review in my opinion. There really is no room for another review unfortunately, too bad

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

Of course there is. Louis could do 10 for Supporting.

luke higham said...

Koook160: I've been clamouring for Louis to do 10 in the supporting category for quite a while now.
Louis has intended on reviewing Ben Foster in 3:10 to Yuma and he has Jones, Finney and Dalton as deserving performances on the nominees ranking page.

The Requests (Travolta, Lynch, Freeman, Harris and Rockwell)
Jones
Dalton
Foster
Finney
And
Zahn

mcofra7 said...

I figured that others would get in over him but maybe not

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

Wouldn't mind seeing Garrett Dilahunt in Jesse James get a review either. Great if brief work.

luke higham said...

Also, I don't think Louis would want to pass up reviewing any 5 star performances, that he's actually seen.

mcofra7 said...

Agreed. He was terrific in showing the fear in his one major scene.

luke higham said...

Louis: Your Top 5 Female Lead & Supporting Performances of 2001 with ratings, plus any other performances, you would give at least a 4 to.

Michael McCarthy said...

Eh, seems about right. I think Zahn is a very likely 5.

Louis Morgan said...

mcofra7: I'm definitely doing 10 in supporting. The year is too good to only do the requests.

Luke:

Well I'm saving Zahn without question.

Davies - 4.5(He's very underrated here as no one seems to mention just how good he is here as well. Davies creates the demented state of his character so well that he makes him seem less of snake than he technically is written to be. Davies though always shows how the wear of the camp has gone on his mind and how there is always an insanity behind his random threats that he'll betray the others to the guards. I particularly love his final scene where he shows Gene seemingly unable to mentally comprehend the escape as he's almost comatose from finally being given at least a temporary freedom)

luke higham said...

Louis: Yay.

Matt Mustin said...

I actually preferred Davies to Zahn. That said, it's been a while since I've seen it.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

If you're not saving him, can I have your rating and thoughts on Armin Mueller-Stahl in Eastern Promises?

Michael McCarthy said...

I didn't care as much for Davies. It seemed to me like after Saving Private Ryan, he seemed to play all of his characters the exact same way he played this one. Maybe it was a little more appropriate here, but the impact was still muted for me.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

I agree with Michael to an extent. To be honest I found both Bale and Davies to be in full method-ham mode throughout the film. Zahn on the other hand took a different, better route.

Anonymous said...

Louis, what rating would you actually give to Ruby Dee in American Gangster? I would even give her a 4. She didn't have much screen-time but that last scene was killer.

RatedRStar said...

Macbeth is getting positive reviews =D

HUGS for everyone =D

RatedRStar said...

Michael Caine in Youth looks set to be a veteran contender, I can only see one of him or Tom Courtenay taking a single spot as opposed to both.

luke higham said...

RatedRStar: 5 star reviews from The Telegraph and The Times, has surely eased the nerves I've had going into it premiere. Now, we just have to wait till January/February and hope that Fassbender and Cotillard get 5s from Louis.
Marion has been given a little bit more credit, although, that's just because she has more Oscar scenes than Michael.

I'd put my money on Caine, considering he's the more well known of the two.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

I'm more happy that Justin Kurzel is finally ge his due after Snowtown.

luke higham said...

Koook160: I too am extremely happy for Kurzel, I hope he wins Director, although unlikely, with the film being shown on the last day.

luke higham said...

*It's Premiere.

luke higham said...

Louis: Your Top 5 Favourite Performances from Christian Bale.

luke higham said...

Louis: Actually, just tell me where Rescue Dawn would rank in his top 5 performances.

Anonymous said...

John Smith: Louis, your top ten movies of 1970, 1971, 2001, 2012, 1974, 1969, 1966, 1965, 1968, 1967

luke higham said...

John Smith: Jeez, One or Two at a time please.

Anonymous said...

John Smith

Luke: Your right, Louis limit that to 1970 the rest you can do in time.

Matt Mustin said...

Well, I saw Mad Max. I thought it was amazing. Masterfully directed by George Miller with every single action sequence offering something incredible.
The cast:

Hardy-4.5(Bordering on 5. A great badass, but he also shows the deep-seated pain in the character through often very brief and silent reactions)

Theron-4.5(Pretty much exactly the same as my thoughts on Hardy)

Hoult-4.5(Amazing in his physicality, like Hardy and Theron, but unlike them he has more of an arc to his character, which he portrays very well)

Keays-Byrne-3.5(I'm a little unsure about this, because on the one hand, I think a great deal of his effectiveness is because he just looks so freakin' cool. However, he does convey a significant menace through his eyes and particularly his voice

The wives-3(They all add a little something to the film)

Michael McCarthy said...

I'd give Hoult an easy 5. I'd be happy to give extended thoughts if anyone wants.

Matt Mustin said...

Yeah, sure. He's on the border for me, so what's your thoughts?

luke higham said...

Michael McCarthy: On Recollection, I've upgraded Hoult to a very strong 4.5 and who knows, I might give him a 5 on rewatch.
Personally, Hardy's now a 5 for me.

I rewatched Rescue Dawn and Zahn made the greater impression on me. His final scene, I found fairly disturbing, yet very sad. I could actually see him making the top three.

luke higham said...

Louis: Is Bale's 4.5 rating a very strong one.

Michael McCarthy said...

I'm pretty positive Hardy and Theron's ratings aren't going above a 4.5 for me.

John Smith said...

Im really hyped now for Mad Max, hope i'll love it as much as ya'all

RatedRStar said...

What is everyones thoughts on A Beautiful Mind? what with whats happened recently I thought I would ask what everyone thought of the film.

luke higham said...

RatedRStar: It's a decent enough film, with a really good performance from Crowe. R.I.P. John and Alicia.

John Smith said...

Rated R Star: It is a good movie with stellar performances

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

Possibly my least favorite Best Picture winner with a bafflingly overpraised lead performance and unforgivable screenplay.

luke higham said...

KoooK160: He's not great by any means, but he's effective enough.

Anonymous said...

I liked it very much the first time, now I think it's just fine. Ron Howard's directing win is really undeserved as his directing is absolutely standard. Russell Crowe is great for me and he is easily the best part of the movie, while Jennifer Connelly is just good for me (she lacks charm in the beginning and the role is very limited, but she has some powerful moments in the second half). I'd give a 4.5 to Crowe and a 3.5 to Connelly. I don't get at all the praises for Ed Harris's performance, he did nothing of relevance. Overall I thought it was okay but not too special, and I preferred Moulin Rouge!, Gosford Park and In the Bedroom much more.

luke higham said...

Anonymous: Eh, Lord Of The Rings.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

I disagree. I think Crowe is downright embarrassing as Nash. Just a constant string of mannerisms and tics. He would be considered going half-retard in method of his character wasn't a math genius. I'd give him a 2.

luke higham said...

KoooK160: Oh Well, you can't please everyone. By the way, who's your least favourite Best Actor Winner and your rating & thoughts on Crowe in Gladiator.

Michael McCarthy said...

I think it's an engrossing story that's held down by a poorly written screenplay. I agree with Robert that Crowe's performance was very actorly but I actually did think he had one or two strong moments. I agree with Anonymous on Connelly. I enjoyed Paul Bettany, but I think I always do.

luke higham said...

KoooK160: Also, my rating for Crowe in A Beautiful Mind is a 4.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

Least favorite? Hm... Probably Dustin Hoffman's similar mannerism fest in Rain Man. It doesn't help that Raymond Babbit is barely a character and just a cheap plot device for Tom Cruise's character.

As for Crowe in Gladiator, I'd give him a 3. The role doesn't allow him much leeway, but he brings enough dignity to the proceedings. he certainly has the right presence.

Anonymous said...

I suggest everyone to see Youth directed by Paolo Sorrentino. It's amazingly directed (some scenes left me speechless) and Michael Caine and Harvey Keitel give 5-stars worthy performances, they are astonishing. Rachel Weisz and Paul Dano are also really good, and Jane Fonda simply KILLED it in her single scene. Really a one scene wonder.

luke higham said...

Anonymous: Did you see it at Cannes.

Michael Patison said...

I think A Beautiful Mind is completely fine. It's standard biopic fare. I agree with Luke on Crowe (obviously disagreeing with Robert's appraisal of the performance), and I'd give Connelly the same rating. Ed Harris is the best part of the movie for me. I also disagree with Robert about the screenplay, which I feel is okay. It's not horrible, as I was certainly not turned off by it on first viewing, but it completely fails to hold up on repeat viewings.

What's-his-face the screenwriter is obviously a really poor screenwriter, but Beautiful Mind is far from his worst, and while that isn't saying much, the script certainly isn't terrible.

Anonymous said...

@Luke: No, I've seen it in Italy where I live (in Italy the movie was released on the same day it premiered at Cannes, May 20th).

RatedRStar said...

I am gonna watch it, its on YouTube, so I might as well. =D.

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...

I do hope Bale makes the top 10.

luke higham said...

Anonymous: Ok, Just making sure that you have. =)

luke higham said...

GDSAO: The review looks incredibly strong despite the accent flaw, so I've no doubt that he's going to make the top ten.

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...

@Luke: What are your top 10 Bale performances?

1. The Prestige (5)
2. Empire of the Sun (5)
3. The Dark Knight Rises (4.5)
4. Rescue Dawn (4.5)
5. Out of the Furnace (4.5)
6. The Machinist (4.5)
7. The Fighter (4.5)
8. American Psycho (4.5)
9. 3:10 to Yuma (4.5)
10. Batman Begins (4)

luke higham said...

GDSAO:
1. The Prestige (5)
2. The Machinist (5)
3. Out Of The Furnace (4.5)
4. Rescue Dawn (4.5)
5. American Psycho (4.5)
6. Empire Of The Sun (4.5)
7. The Dark Knight Rises (4)
8. 3:10 To Yuma (4)
9. The Fighter (4)
10. Batman Begins (4)

luke higham said...

RatedRStar: Your Top Ten Kermode Reviews/Rants.

mcofra7 said...

Is Bale a lock for the Machinist for the bonus reviews?

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

Probably.

luke higham said...

Mcofra7: He has to be, there's not a great deal of competition for '04 Lead and it's the most infamous role of his career so far.

RatedRStar said...

@Luke: Haha oh a good question =D, my favorites are.

1)All of the Transformer reviews
2)Revolver
3)Elizabethtown
4)Star Wars The Phantom Menace 3D
5)Babel
6)Terminator Salvation
7)Sex and The City 2
8)Star Wars III
9)Pimp
10)Deathproof

luke higham said...

RatedRStar: What about POTC: At World's End and Fred: The Movie.

RatedRStar said...

@Luke: Oh I do like those as well lol, Fred is a little jarring on the ears with Marks screaming lol.

The odd one out of those ten that I mentioned was probably Babel and that is because I just really didnt like it and found it completely contrived and far too coincidental.

luke higham said...

RatedRStar: I've only ever liked Barraza's performance in Babel. I just pray hope that Birdman wasn't a fluke for Inarritu, since The Revenant is now my most anticipated film of the year, with Macbeth in second.

Louis Morgan said...

Anonymous:

3.5 - (She's fine in her very slight scenes early on, but definitely delivers in her big scene. Maybe the nomination was too much, but it's a good performance)

Luke:

1. The Prestige
2. Out of the Furnace
3. Rescue Dawn
4. American Psycho
5. Empire of the Sun

Solid 4.5 for me.

John:

1. Patton
2. Ryan's Daughter
3. Scrooge
4. Kelly's Heroes
5. Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion
6. The Twelve Chairs
7. El Topo
8. Cromwell
9. Five Easy Pieces
10. I Never Sang for My Father

Louis Morgan said...

Luke:

Actress:

1. Naomi Watts - Mulholland Drive
2. Sissy Spacek - In the Bedroom
3. Laura Harring - Mulholland Drive
4. Cate Blanchett - Bandits
5. Thora Birch - Ghost World

Supporting Actress:

1. Gwyneth Paltrow - The Royal Tenenbaums
2. Marisa Tomei - In The Bedroom
3. Frances O'Connor - A.I. - 4
4. Kelly MacDonald - Gosford's Park - 4
5. Frances McDormand - The Man Who Wasn't There - 4