Wednesday, November 23, 2011

548. Deliverance (1972)

Running Time: 109 minutes
Directed By: John Boorman
Written By: James Dickey, from his novel
Main Cast: Jon Voight, Burt Reynolds, Ned Beatty, Ronny Cox
Click here to view the trailer


Well, here we are on the eve of "Turkey Day", yours truly enjoying a couple of days off from my workplace and opting to curl up in a warm bed with the wife and check out a good movie. And so that's EXACTLY what I did, except the movie far superseded the "good" that I would have settled for.

Here, our main cast is four strong, as a group of thirty-something businessmen head into the wilderness to enjoy the raging rapids of a mighty river, before the river valley is flooded by the construction of a dam. The mastermind behind the canoe trip is Lewis (Reynolds), who goes against his friends wishes to just spend the weekend playing gold and opts to spend the weekend connecting with nature and being primitive. Joining Lewis is Ed (Voight), Drew (Cox) and Bobby (Beatty), as the quartet head into the wilderness. The plan is for the four to head downstream and end up in the town of Aintry, where they plan to find their cars, courtesy of a couple of local hillbillies that Lewis paid off. The first day goes off without a hitch and when the quartet awaken the next morning, they head back to their canoes and back down the river. This time, it's Bobby & Ed pairing up in one vessel and Lewis & Drew in another. When Bobby & Ed fall behind their friends and stop to rest their arms and wash their faces in a stream, they get taken hostage by two hunters. When Ed is tethered to a tree with his belt, one of the hunters forces Bobby to strip down and what follows is a very uncomfortable rape scene. Lewis & Drew eventually find their two mates, but the damage has been done and it's just the beginning of the quartet's weekend nightmare.


What you have in "Deliverance" is really three films all crammed into one. You have a story of man vs. nature, a story of man vs. man and a story of man vs. self. The man vs. nature aspect of it is pretty self-explanatory and when the film starts that's really all this film is. You take four men and you pit them against the wilds of the river rapids and leave them to survive in the wilderness and you have basis for many movies that have been made on that plot alone. Then you throw in the two hunters and it turns into man vs. man, again self explanatory and again a plot that can stand on it's own two feet. Then you throw in the moral dilemma of a man who questions covering up a murder, even if the murder was justified. You force these four men to wrestle with themselves and while maybe never verbally saying it, you get something in their eyes that makes you think they feel guilty, especially Ed. You take all of those elements and you weave them together and you have the makings for a fantastic piece of cinema and a sensational picture and that's what "Deliverance" is. The acting is top notch too, with even someone like Burt Reynolds, whom you wouldn't think could ACTUALLY act, turning in a really great performance. I think Voight and Beatty steal the show though, they were both marvelous.

I just want to talk for a minute about the rape scene itself. It was an extremely uncomfortable scene, but they did do something that kind of took the edge off a little bit. They have the hunters tethering Ed to a tree and basically forcing him to watch as his friend gets sodomized by a Georgian hillbilly. In doing that, the audience, no matter how uncomfortable we get, have someone that we can really relate to at that moment. In a way it really works to transport the audience to THAT moment. In a way, we're the ones tethered to the tree and we're the ones being forced to watch as this helpless man is victimized. It's a very well done scene, despite the uncomfortableness. Speaking of Ed, I also loved the scene, near the end of the film where he sits down to eat something, after just getting out of the river. Once his plate is loaded up and before he eats, he breaks down for just a second. Bobby changes the conversation and soon we're hearing the head of the table, an old woman, talk about an extra large cucumber that she grew. Ed laughs, realizing in that moment that life goes on, that despite the seriousness that the four were forced to face that weekend, things have a chance at normalcy again...someday.

RATING: 9/10 I really don't have any gripes, so we'll call that a review. No '10' because it just didn't feel like a '10', but nonetheless it's a fantastic film and one that is really easy to get gripped by.


November 23, 2011 4:41pm
Happy Thanksgiving


  1. There exists the type of film that is a good, well made, meaningful film that you just don't want to watch. I'm afraid this is one in that fairly small list. It isn't just the rape thing.. I'm afraid I just don't go for the Mach man thing.. but I guess this film is every bit as critical of the attitude.
    Try a film called 'Southern Comfort' Very simular idea. A group of Louisiana Nation Guard on manouvers in the swamps. Due to ignorance, arrogance and stupidity, they alienate the local Cajuns, with simular results. Of course it is a thinly disguised analogy of the Vietnam war, but one I thought more.. watchable.

  2. I added "Southern Comfort" to my watch-list Ray, thanks for the suggestion and as always, for the comments.


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