Rescue takes viewers into places they'd never normally see

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A documentary directed by Stephen Low. Rating not available. Now playing at the Omnimax Theatre at Science World

The new documentary spreading across the five-storey-high screen at Science World shows both the possibilities and limitations of the huge IMAX technology.

Rescue uses sheer scale to take viewers into places they would never normally get to see, from the bowels of a massive C17 transport plane as it’s dropping a 100,000-pound road grader by parachute to flying over the postapocalyptic landscape of crumbling white buildings in a destroyed Port-au-Prince.

But the cumbersome cameras also seem to hamper the on-the-ground abilities of the IMAX crew. Director Stephen Low and his team garner some incredible shots, but there is a fragmentation to the narrative that contrasts the seamlessness of documentaries shot with easy-toting digital cameras.

In fact, the first half of this 45-minute flick reads more like a recruitment film, introducing us to that C17 pilot, a helicopter pilot, a volunteer fireman, and a Canadian destroyer commander. Each tells us the story of how he or she got into the job, but the bigger message being pushed is this: instruments of war are often used for saving lives after disasters. Of the characters, the kickass C17 U.S. Air Force pilot—the young, unflappable Captain Lauren Ross, who calmly navigates a 52-metre plane that can drop tonnes of relief supplies and 102 paratroopers—could easily warrant her own documentary. In fact, she should have her own reality show.

Rescue abruptly shifts its focus to the events of 2010 Haiti, the massive earthquake apparently happening midway through shooting. We see boats and planes redirected across the seas to the disaster, but the movie loses focus on its characters and turns its sights on the relief efforts.

In the end, Rescue can’t quite decide what it wants to be—recruitment ad, character portrait, or disaster doc. Still, it’s hard to think of anywhere else but the Omnimax screen where you could get a true idea of the scale of Haiti’s destruction. Put it this way: Rescue’s overhead shots of a refugee camp for a million people is the closest an outsider is every going to get to grasping that kind of chaos.

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