Rescue Dawn is a good movie, but one key thing continues to bug me. The special effects of the aerial attack and crash feel incongruent with the rest of the film as Werner Herzog‘s methods of filming. This movie opens with archival footage of planes bombarding Laos or Vietnam. The footage is grainy, 16mm film. The movie itself was shot on 35mm color negative. The shots of Christian Bale in the cockpit look as if he’s before a green-screen. The images of the weapons leaving his plane look like a shot from a video game. I’m certain they are CGI.
So, why does the idea of CGI in 2006 strike me as being so odd? Well, because it’s a Herzog film and there has always been something so tactile and physical about his work. Now, I’m certainly not expecting Werner Herzog to instruct Christian Bale to attack Laos and then crash his plane, just for the sake of the film. Then again, Herzog has dragged a boat over a mountain.
You can see the questionable footage here in the trailer for the film
The odd thing about the trailer is that it inter-splices a shot from the early archival footage in with the action sequence of the aerial attack.
In the film the shot sequence goes:
- Hand on controls
- Weapons leave the plane
- Close-up of Christian Bale’s face.
- P.O.V. of Christian Bale through cockpit window as a target explodes right before him.
- Then a profile of Bale in the cockpit as he jerks the controls back.
The last two shots are omitted from the trailer and replaced with the archival footage. Then the trailer springs forward to the crash.
You can view the crash sequence in the film here at the 8 minutes and 52 second mark.
It’s a poor upload of a Kurdish translation of the film, but the incongruent quality of the effects still stand out and make me speculate as to why the editor cutting the trailer worked in other footage for the trailer’s action sequence.