Let me open this review with a little history lesson. (I know, sooooo boring right?) My hometown of Lebanon used to be a bigger town. But in the 1970’s, part of my town was leveled in order to create a reservoir. So people living in the area where the reservoir was being built had to leave their homes. So a part of our civilization vanquished for a manmade body of water. There is a similar theme in this film, Deliverance. The film takes place in the mountains of Georgia and a river which is very dear to our main characters is about to disappear because of a dam building which would flood the area. Like in my area, people have to leave their homes to escape the flooding. It is a very sad situation all around, but that theme makes this movie all the more better.
I enjoyed Deliverance very much. It has been regarded of one of the best films of 1972 and I think I can agree with that. This is just a simple adventure of four men traveling the rapids in pursuit of some adventure, but of course problems will arise. The movie works very well as a adventure film and it was interesting to see how each character develops with some of the action that goes on. This film delivers on its promise of characterization. Each of the four men bring their personality to the trip. One dude is a macho man named Lewis (Burt Reynolds). He is the tough guy of the group and this expedition was his idea. The other main character is Ed (Jon Voight) who also exhibits some toughness skills (just watch that cliff climbing scene). Then we have Bobby (Ned Beatty) who is an overweight man that is afraid of many things it seems. Finally, we have Drew (Ronny Cox) who took part in my favorite scene in the movie- “The Dueling Banjos” Scene where he squared off against a mentally-challenged boy in a contest between a banjo and a guitar before the group began their journey.
The scene that everyone talks about and that gave awareness to the movie is the scene where mountain men raped poor Bobby. It was a very well-made scene with such powerful lines of dialogue such as “I’ll make you squeal like a pig.” Regardless, it is a very brutal scene and it’s incredibly hard to watch. The sequence was a pretty long one, but it showed an example of how men can survive in a harsh, primitive environment. Kudos to Jon Voight’s character, Ed exacting revenge against the two men who raped Bobby. The film may seem like a quiet adventure film, but it becomes instantly loud the moment this scene appears. Director John Boorman does a wonderful job in creating tension and thrills setting up the scene before it actually happens.
The acting is very good and I could expect no less for a film that features wonderful character development. Burt Reynolds plays a man with a machismo personality (no surprise there), but he does it very well. Jon Voight impressed me in this film. He was so great in 1969’s Midnight Cowboy and was the best thing about 1970’s mediocre Catch-22, so he really comes into his own here. The way he scaled the cliffs in order to kill those men showed what a brave man he was. This film was not insured and to save costs, each of the actors did their own stunts. If you saw that cliff, you would be very surprised. Ned Beatty gives a wonderful performance and a pained one. That scene where he got raped (and you see all of it onscreen) is a powerful, intense scene and he gave such raw emotion. Ronny Cox arguably had the smaller role, but his scene where he is playing the banjo sticks out to me. His character seemed to be the most moral guy of the group.
The film makes good use of its cinematographer, Vilmos Zsigmond. He was the man who filmed the gorgeous 1971 movie, McCabe and Mrs. Miller. Now he delivers great camerawork in this movie. It was a tough shoot because of the location of the movie set against rapids, but Vilmos really made it work and the picture is gorgeous set amongst the American wilderness.
John Boorman delivered an exquisite adventure film in the form of Deliverance. It is a movie about survival and how men from the city can survive in the wild using their primitive instincts. The movie gained some controversy because of the squealing pig scene, but it remains a very powerful scene that is hard to watch. The other scene to keep an eye on is the banjo scene. That is essentially all of the music the film has, but it is quite worth it. The film has a gorgeous, naturalistic look and it is very well-acted. If you are looking for an adventure story, look no further than Deliverance.
My Grade: A-