The film is based on the true story of German-born Dieter Dengler, who dreamed of being a pilot and eventually made his way to the United States, where he joined the Navy during the Vietnam War era. He became a pilot and was shot down over Laos and captured. Eventually he organized an escape with a small band of captives.
Dieter Dengler, a U.S. Navy pilot, is shot down over Laos at the beginning of the Vietnam War while on a top-secret mission. He survives the crash only to find himself closely pursued, and his efforts to avoid capture are ultimately unsuccessful. Dieter is given the chance for mercy if he signs a document condemning America, but he refuses. Instead, he is tortured and taken to a prison camp. There he meets fellow American military members and Air America pilots, some of whom have been captive for years. Dieter begins planning an escape, much to the disbelief of his fellow captives, who have been downtrodden through physical and psychological torture from the camp guards.
Eventually, all the prisoners rise up and escape, but they take separate routes through the jungle. Dieter and fellow captive Duane try to reach the Mekong River to cross over into Thailand. The pair are attacked and Duane is beheaded. Eventually, Dieter is rescued by an American helicopter but sequestered in a hospital due to the top secret nature of his mission. He is covertly taken back to his ship by his shipmates, where he is received as a hero by the entire crew.
The film was shot in 44 days in Thailand. In preparation for the roles, the actors playing the prisoners spent several months losing weight. Since weight gain is accomplished more quickly than weight loss, the film was shot in reverse, with Bale fully regaining his weight during the course of the shoot.
The film includes the first major occurrence in Herzog’s career of digital visual effects. Because very few authentic A-1 Skyraiders remained flightworthy at the time of the production, the shots of Dieter’s flight while airborne were created digitally. The crash itself, however, was produced practically.
The film was originally scheduled to be released by MGM in December 2006, but was held back for limited release in the United States at some point in 2007. The film had a nationwide release on July 27, 2007, after a limited release in NY/Toronto/LA on July 4. The movie was released on DVD in November 2007. The film is rated PG-13 for some sequences of intense war violence and torture.
Rescue Dawn is a 2007 movie starring Christian Bale and Steve Zahn. It is written and directed by Werner Herzog, based on the director’s acclaimed 1997 documentary, Little Dieter Needs to Fly. NBA all-star Elton Brand is the film’s producer through his production company Gibraltar Entertainment, which he co-owns with partner Steve Marlton. The film was produced in association with Thema Production. The project, which had been coming together in fits and starts during 2004, began shooting in Thailand in mid-August 2005.