In 1965, while bombing Laos in a classified mission, the propeller plane of the German-American US Navy pilot Dieter Dengler is hit and crashes in the jungle. Dieter is arrested by the peasants, tortured by the Vietcong and sent to a prisoner camp, where he meets five other mentally deranged prisoners and guards. He becomes close to Duane and organizes an escape plan; however, the unstable Gene opposes to Dieter's plan. When they discover that there is no more food due to the constant American bombings in the area and their guards intend to kill them, Dieter sets his plan in motion. However, an unexpected betrayal splits the group and Dieter and Duane find that the jungle is their actual prison. Written by
PHD, in CT USA
A Pelican case is visible during the first briefing. Pelican cases were not introduced until 1976. See more »
In 1965, few people believed that the still limited conflict in Viet Nam would turn into full scale war. / One of the first signs of what lay ahead was America's bombing of secret targets inside Laos.
See more »
If you're a big fan of the mad German genius Werner Herzog, you might be disappointed in this, his first foray into Hollywood film-making. This is polished and not at all experimental. However, to me it feels like Herzog, when he stepped up to the plate, said to himself, "Well, I can make an American film. And I can make a better one than 95% of American films." And there's nothing wrong with that. The film is a dramatization of the events retold in Herzog's earlier documentary Little Dieter Needs to Fly. Christian Bale plays Dieter Dengler, an American citizen and German emigré who had one of the most impressive survival instincts ever seen in a human being. Shot down in Laos in the opening throes of the Vietnam War, he was taken to a brutal POW camp where he met two other American POWs (Jeremy Davies and Steven Zahn in the film) and three Asian men who had worked with the enemy. The two Americans had been there for an average of a couple of years, and had all but given up hope (the Davies character is sure there will be peace soon enough). Through his amazing ingenuity, Dieter planned a heroic escape. Most of the movie takes place in the POW camp. Most of what I remember from Little Dieter Needs to Fly, which I saw around two years ago, is the escape. It's a disturbing, horrifying tale of survival. I would have liked this part to be the longer, but it works very well. It's certainly harrowing. I was disappointed that one of the images I really remember from the original film did not appear: the bear that stalked Dieter during his final days wandering in the jungle. He considered it almost a friend, but in the back of his mind realized it was following him because it wanted to eat him. Herzog keeps things extremely subtle, telling them very much the way they happened. The story develops more like real life, not like a movie. It keeps melodrama to a minimum. My only problem is how it ends. The ending is way too boisterous and uplifting. Dieter Dengler was most definitely an upbeat kind of guy, but his suffering and the awful things that he saw heck, with the awful things that we just experienced with him, so vivid is this movie don't lead well to the celebration that ends the movie. I very much liked this film, and think it is one of the best I've seen so far this year.
79 of 107 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?