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March 3, 2021
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Rescue Dawn/ Sunshine
(2007-07-27)
(wgvu) - Werner Herzog is one of the greatest living film directors, and he's made his first narrative feature film in 20 years. Rescue Dawn is his first English language feature, a dramatic adaptation of the true story of American P.O.W. Dieter Dengler, the subject of his documentary Little Dieter Needs to Fly. Dengler was a German born American who enlisted in the Military during Vietnam to fly jets, and he's played by Christian Bale. During his first mission he was shot down over Laos. (clip) Dengler is thrown into a small, open air prison that's somewhere in the jungle wilderness of Laos, whose people are collaborating with the North Vietnamese. The small band of prisoners include two men from Thailand, and two American soldiers, the emaciated Gene, played by Jeremy Davies, and Duane, played by Steve Zahn. (clip) Dengler is a force for life for the skeletal inhabitants, who are guarded by a small band of guards, who are nearly equally starving. Dengler almost immediately begins planning an escape. (clip) The North Vietnamese are neglecting the prison, and soon there's no food for both guards and their prisoners. The Thai prisoners understand Vietnamese, and overhear a sinister solution. (clip) Dengler executes his plan, and this neo-realistic adventure story ramps up in action and drama. Rescue Dawn is one of the top movies of the year, a magnificent return to form by Herzog. The performances by all of the Asian actors and Davies, Zahn, and Bale are fantastic. It almost has a low-budget feel to it, which is reinforced by Herzog's unwavering ethic of getting in the mud with his actors. This is movie not to missed.

Another great movie has landed in theaters, by UK director Danny Boyle, who made the zombie movie 28 Days Later. Sunshine is the best science fiction movie I've seen in years, a flick that relies on hard science as the foundation for its adventure. It's fifty years in the future, and the sun has suddenly begun dying out. Humanity has instituted a theoretical plan to reignite the star by sending a massive thermonuclear device into its center. Seven years after the failure of a first attempt, a second team is sent forth. As they get closer to the sun, weird hallucinations and feelings overcome the crew. And then they receive a distress signal from the first craft which is in orbit around the sun. (clip) The ship alters course and finds and docks with the ghost craft. (clip) In the course of exploring the battered vessel, a catastrophic accident occurs destroying the mechanism that supplies the crew with oxygen. (clip) Sunshine is an extraordinarily intelligent science fiction adventure. The visuals are stunning, with motifs riffed off of 2001: A Space Odyssey, Alien, and other classics from the genre. It's almost perfect, but a bombastic twist to its overblown climax makes it a flawed masterpiece. If Boyle had stuck to the template that's established in the first two thirds of the narrative it would've been unblemished. But Sunshine still rises above the mass of sci-fi cinema. Cillian Murphy leads the ensemble cast, including Rose Byrne, Chris Evans , Michelle Yeow, Cliff Curtis, and Benedict Wong. This is a story in the grand tradition of people struggling with overwhelming elements of nature, trying to overcome and triumph, only with cool space suits, and the searing power of the sun.
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