Once Dangler (Bale) is captured by the Vietcong he is moved around, tortured and eventually put in a prison camp with five other prisoners. These prisoners nearly starved to death over time and the actors dedication to losing weight for their roles was very impressive. After watching the special features I learned that Bale, Zahn, and Davies lost a combined total of 128 pounds in order to give their characters a more authentic look. (Bale had done this before when he lost 60 pounds for his role in The Machinist.) The prisoners were not just physically but also mentally wasting away. It was painful to watch them wear down over time and lose hope, but Dangler was determined to escape. He devised a complicate escape plan and they patiently waited for the right time to pull it off. They were finally able to overtake their captors and escape into the jungle but this did little to improve his situation since he was still exhausted, starving, and lost. He was pursued by Vietcong and the native villagers as he attempted to find American forces.
The film was directed by Werner Herzog. I've enjoyed many of his films over the years but it surprised me to see him making a Hollywood film. His work is usually more avant garde and artistic. Watching this reminded me of the jungle landscape from his movies Aguirre and Fitzcerraldo. I appreciate the realistic feel of his movies.
This movie was very intense and I had no problem getting into it. The acting was probably the strongest part. Bale does a great job, but I think Jeremy Davies stole the show with his portrayal of mentally unstable Eugene. I was also surprised to see Steve Zahn in such a serious role. In the past I have associated him with goofball characters in other movies, but he was very convincing. If you like war movies or films based on true stories then I highly recommend it. I give this movie 8.0 stars. And yes, the prison aspect probably helped bump up my rating.