Just because a war is an unpopular debacle doesn’t mean that the individuals fighting it aren’t likable and heroic. On this Memorial Day, we’re reminded of that fact by Little Dieter Needs to Fly, Werner Herzog’s 1997 documentary about U.S. Navy pilot Dieter Dengler’s escape from a prison camp during the Vietnam War. The story is so riveting that it seems to be crying out for a Hollywood adaptation. And indeed, Herzog has remade it as Rescue Dawn, due out July 4.
In the excellent new feature, Christian Bale plays Dieter. Sure, Bale puts on a great performance, but seeing the real Dieter describe his experience is, if less action-packed, more emotionally intense — especially once Dieter, in Laos, re-creates his capture, imprisonment, torture, and escape.
You’ll probably be seeing ads for Rescue Dawn soon — and after watching Little Dieter, you’ll know why Herzog felt compelled to bring this story to the largest possible audience.
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