'Deliverance' is a brilliant condensed epic of a group of thoroughly modern men who embark on a canoe trip to briefly commune with nature, and instead have to fight for their sanity, their lives, and perhaps even their souls. The film has aged well. Despite being made in the early Seventies, it certainly doesn't look particularly dated. It still possesses a visceral punch and iconic status as a dramatic post-'Death of the Sixties' philosophical-and-cultural shock vehicle. There are very few films with similar conceits that can compare favourably to it, although the legendary Sam Peckinpah's stuff would have to be up there. Yes, there has been considerable debate and discussion about the film's most confronting scene (which I won't expand upon here) - and undoubtedly one of the most confronting scenes in the entire history of the cinematic medium - but what surprises about this film is how achingly beautiful it is at times. This seems to be generally overlooked (yet in retrospect quite understandably so). The cinematography that captures the essence of the vanishing, fragile river wilderness is often absolutely stunning, and it counterbalances the film as, in a moment of brief madness, we the viewers - along with the characters themselves - are plunged into unrelenting nightmare. 'Deliverance's narrative is fittingly lean and sinewy, and it is surprising how quickly events unfold from point of establishment, through to crisis, and aftermath. It all takes place very quickly, which lends a sense of very real urgency to the film. The setting is established effectively through the opening credits. The characters are all well-drawn despite limited time spent on back story. We know just enough about them to know them for the kind of man they are, like them and ultimately fear for them when all goes to hell. The conflict and violence within the movie seems to erupt out of nowhere, with a frightening lack of logic. This is author James Dickey's theme - that any prevailing romanticism about the nature of Man's perceived inherent 'goodness' can only wilt and die when his barely suppressed animal instincts come to the fore. There are no demons or bogeymen here. The predatory hillbillies - as the film's central villains - are merely crude, terrifyingly amoral cousins of our protagonists. They shock because their evil is petty and tangible. The film has no peripheral characters. All reflect something about the weaknesses and uncertainties of urbanised Homo Sapiens in the latter 20th century, and all are very real and recognisable. Burt Reynolds is wonderful in this movie as the gung-ho and almost fatally over-confident Survivalist, Lewis, and it is a shame to think that he really couldn't recapture his brief moment of dramatic glory throughout the rest of his still sputtering up-and-down career ('Boogie Nights' excluded, perhaps). Trust me, if your are not a Reynolds fan, you WILL be impressed with his performance here. John Voight is his usual effortlessly accomplished self, and Ned Beatty and Ronny Cox both make significant contributions. This is simply a great quartet of actors. To conclude, I must speculate as to if and when 'Deliverance' author James Dickey's 'To the White Sea' will be made. For those that enjoyed (?) this film, TTWS is a similarly harrowing tale of an American Air Force pilot's struggle for survival after being shot down over the Japanese mainland during WW2. It's more of the typically bleak existentialism and primordial savagery that is Dickey's trademark, but it has all the makings of a truly spectacular, poetic cinematic experience. There was the suggestion a few years ago that the Coen brothers might be producing it, but that eventually came to nothing. Being an avid Coen-o-phile it disappoints me to think what might have been had they gotten the green light on TTWS, rather than their last couple of relatively undistinguished efforts. Returning to 'Deliverance', it's impossible to imagine a movie of such honest, unnerving brutality being made in these times, and that is pretty shameful. We, the cinema-going public, are all the poorer for this.
Action / Adventure / Drama / Mystery / Thriller
Action / Adventure / Drama / Mystery / Thriller
The Cahulawassee River valley in Northern Georgia is one of the last natural pristine areas of the state, which will soon change with the imminent building of a dam on the river, which in turn will flood much of the surrounding land. As such, four Atlanta city slickers - alpha male Lewis Medlock, generally even-keeled Ed Gentry, slightly condescending Bobby Trippe, and wide-eyed Drew Ballinger - decide to take a multi-day canoe trip on the river, with only Lewis and Ed having experience in outdoor life. They know going in that the area is ethno-culturally homogeneous and isolated, but don't understand the full extent of such until they arrive and see what they believe is the result of generations of inbreeding. Their relatively peaceful trip takes a turn for the worse when half way through they encounter a couple of hillbilly moonshiners. That encounter not only makes the four battle their way out of the valley intact and alive, but threatens the relationships of the four as they do ...
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October 14, 2014 at 12:11 PM