TORONTO: "Rescue Dawn," "D.O.A.P." and "Infamous" Reviewed

by | September 15, 2006 | Comments

Following are short reviews of "Rescue Dawn," "Death Of A President" AKA "D.O.A.P." and "Infamous," reviewed by Tim Ryan at the Toronto International Film Festival this week.

"Rescue Dawn"

"Rescue Dawn" is a thrilling movie, an old-fashioned tale of survival that may be the closest Werner Herzog has come to fashioning his obsession with the struggle between man and nature into a mainstream film. Christian Bale stars as Dieter Dengler, an eccentric Vietnam-era Navy pilot whose first allegiance is to flying, his country second (and mainly because the U.S gave him a chance to fly). After crashing in Laos, he is captured and sent to a P.O.W. camp; it’s there that little Dieter steels himself into a man determined to escape and navigate the treacherous jungle to freedom. Bale and Steve Zahn (as a P.O.W.) give remarkable performances, and Herzog creates an air of beauty and peril in the jungle. "Rescue Dawn" (a narrative treatment of Herzog’s documentary "Little Dieter Needs to Fly") is another triumph for the great German director.

"Death Of A President"

You don’t have to be a dyed-in-the-wool George W. Bush supporter to find "Death of a President" a troubling proposition on several levels. Mind you, anti-Americanism and artistic provocation do not necessarily a bad movie make. However, despite the fact that "D.O.A.P." is reasonably impressive on a technical level, the film is not strong enough to be particularly enlightening or insightful, and that’s deadly to an enterprise that imagines the death of a sitting world leader. This not the how-to that some have made it out to be (without seeing the film), and there is a certain palpable dread in the buildup to the assassination. The actual shooting is a blip in the film. But then the film shifts gears; it becomes a murder mystery, and not a particularly interesting one at that, since none of the fictional characters are particularly compelling. Nor does the film answer several fundamental questions it raises. Like, what was the reaction of the American people to the president’s death? Was the economy destabilized? What are the details of Patriot Act 3, the homeland security bill pushed through congress in the wake of the assassination? The fact that these issues are never resolved keeps the film from being particularly useful as the warning it intends to be, and the smugness that permeates throughout doesn’t help, either. "D.O.A.P." leaves an ugly aftertaste.

"Infamous"

Truman Capote is good company, and for much of "Infamous"’ running time, that’s enough to hold our attention. Toby Jones does a good job as Capote, playing the character for all its singular eccentricity and charm. "Infamous," like last year’s "Capote," tells the story of the events surrounding the creation of "non-fiction novel" "In Cold Blood." Capote is seen charming the pants off the New York society crowd and slowly but surely ingratiating himself to the good citizens of Holcolm, Kansas, where the shooting of a prominent family has left the community shaken. Unfortunately, the film loses steam in its second half, as Capote interviews Perry Smith (Daniel Craig), one of the accused killers; the depths of Capote’s motives aren’t explored to a satisfying degree. Despite solid performances from Jones, Sandra Bullock as Harper Lee, Craig, and Gwyneth Paltrow (whose single scene is a knockout), "Infamous" doesn’t do much beyond providing some entertaining moments. "Infamous" currently stands at 33 percent on the Tomatometer.

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