Generally favorable reviews - based on 36 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 33 out of 36
  2. Negative: 0 out of 36
  1. 100
    What a sweet collision is Rescue Dawn: the American psycho meets the German kook.
  2. An old-fashioned prisoner-of-war movie that becomes much more because of writer-director Werner Herzog's admiration for the remarkable true story of its protagonist, Dieter Dengler.
  3. Out of a harrowing story set in a foreign thicket, Herzog has found American beauty.
  4. Christian Bale plays Dieter Dengler and this is one of the actor's most complex and compelling performances.
  5. Aside from a riveting adventure story that Herzog tells in all of its terrifying, stripped-down simplicity, Rescue Dawn is a fascinating study of human particularity.
  6. 90
    That such a masterful depiction of American heroism and can-do spirit has been created by a German art film director known for considerably darker visions of obsession is an irony Herzog no doubt finds delicious.
  7. Herzog outdoes himself with Rescue Dawn, making his most popularly accessible film yet and proving at the same time that he is among the most daring of all filmmakers and capable -- like his characters -- of almost anything.
  8. Reviewed by: Glenn Kenny
    This is filmmaking that's as rousing as it is strange.
  9. Reviewed by: Ken Fox
    To better capture the extremity of Dengler's ordeal, Bale once again underwent the kind of dramatic weight loss that shocked audiences of "The Machinist," but he's downright plump next to the emaciated Davies, who looks like Charles Manson in the end stages of a hunger strike.
  10. 88
    The movie is, indeed, perhaps the most believable that Herzog has made. For a director who gravitates toward the extremes of human behavior, this film involves extreme behavior, yes, but behavior forced by the circumstances.
  11. Reviewed by: Ty Burr
    The question remains: Why would Herzog want to dramatize what he has already captured as nonfiction? To better control the material, I think, and to bring it in line with his own obsessions.
  12. Bale is extraordinary, grinning like a kid, displaying wily intelligence, sinewy resolve and spirit - and a bit of craziness, too.
  13. Reviewed by: Staff (Not credited)
    Their bond lends this more or less conventional POW escape film resounding emotional depth.
  14. The scenes between Dengler and Duane, between a force of nature and a force of reason, are the real heart of the film.
  15. Reviewed by: David Ansen
    As taut and exciting as many edge-of-your-seat Hollywood escape movies.
  16. 80
    You can't watch this exciting movie without rooting for little Dieter, but decoding the lessons of his ambiguous story will take a lot longer.
  17. Reviewed by: Richard Corliss
    Rescue Dawn is a tale of heroism untainted by political skepticism. In an age when U.S. soldiers are seen as villains or victims, the movie offers a GI who bravely, or madly, simply refuses to die.
  18. 80
    But like much of Herzog's work, it's essentially apolitical, focusing on a man at war with his environment -- and no one plunges into the foliage like he does.
  19. Reviewed by: Leslie Felperin
    As far as establishing a sense of period goes, Herzog cleaves to a refreshing less-is-more philosophy. This may be the first Vietnam-set film in history not to feature a bar of Jimi Hendrix, the Rolling Stones or indeed any other rock music on its soundtrack.
  20. 75
    Christian Bale continues to amaze with his ability and range.
  21. Although nothing beats seeing and hearing the real story, Herzog has done a fairly compelling job of blending staged action with docudrama authenticity.
  22. Christian Bale loves to suffer on-screen. Werner Herzog loves to make people suffer on-screen. Rescue Dawn is proof they were made for each other.
  23. 75
    There's never any question how Rescue Dawn will end, but as conventional and straightforward as the movie is, it's easy to understand why Herzog was driven to tell this story twice.
  24. The film, Rescue Dawn, is so good it makes you wish that Herzog had gone Hollywood earlier in his career. His pet theme is here: man tested against nature, his sanity more precarious than his body.
  25. 70
    There is honor, boldness, and grip in the new movie, but other directors can deliver those. Werner Herzog is the last great hallucinator in cinema, so why break the spell?
  26. 70
    Rescue Dawn is the closest thing to a "real" movie that Herzog has ever made. The lone conquistador has joined the club. Rescue Dawn is a Rambo movie without the Man (who, if I remember my Rambology, was himself of German descent).
  27. 70
    The canniness of Bale’s performance (which may be the best of his young but brilliant career) is that he plays Dengler as a fundamentally kind and simple yet rather ingenious man.
  28. Reviewed by: Matt Zoller Seitz
    For the most part, Rescue Dawn is a marvel: a satisfying genre picture that challenges the viewer’s expectations.
  29. Reviewed by: Matthew Sorrento
    In Bale, Herzog has found a talent who transcends the challenges of a brutal shoot. "Rescue" reveals new capabilities for an actor who's already proven himself in other intense and ever-focused performances.
  30. There is a great movie in Werner Herzog's Vietnam saga, Rescue Dawn. Unfortunately, it's about 30 minutes long.
  31. Reviewed by: Scott Bowles
    This is all about escape. And as prison-break movies go, Rescue ranks among the best.
  32. The strangely hybrid result, half Herzog and half Hollywood, plays like its own battleground. Sometimes, the tension is fascinatingly productive; other times, all we get is the worst of both worlds.
  33. Rescue Dawn is Herzog's first English-language screenplay, and this is part of its problem: The hushed conversations between prisoners sound only fitfully idiomatic. Also--crucially--Herzog can't find a way to make his own big finish feel authentic, even if things did happen roughly this way.
  34. Reviewed by: Staff (Not credited)
    Herzog’s planted rather too firmly in his discomfort zone, but Bale once again confirms himself as one of our most intense, committed and watchable actors.
  35. It's a well-acted but rote and strictly by the book "war movie."
  36. 58
    Herzog's drive to bring Dengler's story to a wide audience might have paradoxically caused him to do what he seems normally to abhor: compromise.
User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 90 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 34 out of 43
  2. Negative: 7 out of 43
  1. MV.
    Aug 13, 2007
    Gene was my older brother (he was 4 yrs older) and was a wonderful guy. This is probably the only time that i am thankful that my parents are Gene was my older brother (he was 4 yrs older) and was a wonderful guy. This is probably the only time that i am thankful that my parents are dead; it would be so horrible for them to see what Herzog has done with their son! Didn't he have the decency to check out the facts? And there are plenty! How would Herzog feel if someone did this to his son or brother? Or, for that matter, how would anyone feel? Think about it when you write your raving reviews. Full Review »
  2. JacquelineC.
    Aug 2, 2007
    As a family member in the line of decendents from the DeBruin family, and having not yet seen the movie, I can see where people may create or As a family member in the line of decendents from the DeBruin family, and having not yet seen the movie, I can see where people may create or alter events or characters when making a fictional movie, however, when one is admist the building of a film that is based on the TRUTH, I feel it is both important and necessary to seek out what really happened, especially when portraying such a sensitive subject. Had Dieter been alive to see the film, I think he would agree with me. Full Review »
  3. Feb 18, 2015
    Despite it's sluggish and uninteresting 1st act, the film manages to find it's pace by making us feel for the survivors of this terribleDespite it's sluggish and uninteresting 1st act, the film manages to find it's pace by making us feel for the survivors of this terrible event. Thanks to Werner Herzog's solid directing and a criminally underrated performance by Christian Bale, it is definitely a must watch even though if at it's core, may be just another survival movie. Full Review »