It's unlikely we'll get anything more thrilling this summer than Rescue Dawn, Werner Herzog's exciting-yet-deceptively-subtle feature-film redo of his documentaryLittle Dieter Needs To Fly. Thrilling, because its effects are very simple stuff: a war-time escape accomplished with makeshift tools. Subtle, because Herzog's almost clinical look at Dieter Dengler (played by Christian Bale) never does pierce the enigma of a man who was bombed by planes as a child, and yet who grew up longing to be a pilot. (Cast as his buddy Duane, Steve Zahn calls Dengler "a weird bird". When you're in a movie, and Steve Zahn calls you a weird bird, you can bet you're not the average action hero.)
The older film that comes to mind watching Rescue Dawn is a perhaps more deep contribution to the field of the escape-movie thriller: Robert Bresson's best-loved film, 1956's Un Condamne a mort s'est echappe, known here as A Man Escaped. Like Rescue Dawn, it's a no-frills movie that delivers the unbearable suspense of an escape from a heavily guarded prison. LIke Rescue Dawn,A Man Escaped is made by a director with little interest in irony. But underneath the almost 007-movie excitement of Bresson's finale is that rare cinematic religious allegory that doesn't insult the intelligence of the agnostics in the audience.