110 Minutes#82 On 100 Movies I Haven’t Seen………But Should
1001 Movie Club Rating: 7/10
Directed By: John Boorman
Written By: James Dickey
Staring: Jon Voight, Burt Reynolds, Ned Beatty, Ronny Cox, Herbert ‘Cowboy’ Coward, and Bill McKinney
He got a real pretty mouth ain’t he? -Toothless Man
The Rumors are true. Deliverance is a very disturbing movie. As disturbing and difficult as it was I never really understood what it was about. Clearly the warnings about fearing camping and the woods have been put out there and and a few choices awkward quotes that could only insinuate one thing. Then there is the wickedly peculiar score that plays as it’s own antagonist. What I didn’t know was that this was a true character thriller giving what I’ve found to be one of Jon Voights better performances. Deliverance was full of all kinds of dark surprises.
Intent on seeing the Cahulawassee River before it’s turned into one huge lake four male companions head down the river in two canoes and wander off into the wilderness. What the wilderness surprises them with is something terrifying and very unexpected, and what happens after is a journey full of tense and unfortunate turns of events.
Deliverance takes these men into the wilderness and we get to find out a little about each of them. We see where they’ve come from, and what drives them. Even their own tolerance for the wilderness surrounding them and the arrogance that they could all just conquer it because they felt it becomes present immediately. Though the film moves very slowly, you learn these things very quickly. What catches you off guard is how quickly the infamous scenes do approach you. It certainly is uncomfortable to watch, but it’s clear why its passing is so painstakingly slow. It captures the realism and prepares you for another hour to reflect on what you just saw. You are given plenty of time to deduce what is happening before you.
Once the four men meet the river we are subject to incredible cinematography. The landscape is open and magnificent showing the true vastness of the wilderness and nature. Of course this pure appearance changes as the characters come in conflict with man, but what it does is let you know is that nature isn’t to feared, it’s the violence of man. Nature is not evil, nature kills indiscriminately and without intent. Man does and man can be evil. Every man put in the right situation can change the very essence of who they are.
One thing I won’t forget is that haunting twangy music in the back round. From the first scene with the local boy playing the banjo the theme music seemed to be the constant voice and weight of Drew, played wonderfully by Ronny Cox. Burt Reynolds played the complete opposite, a tough guy hell bent on conquering nature. Though he was a one dimensional role, Reynolds made him shine. Poor Ned Beatty as Bobby couldn’t have been more empathetic, but then also dark and desperate. The transition of before and after makes for a compelling character study. But it was truly Jon Voight who gives a performance for the books. He represents the character who really faces the biggest inner conflicts and overcoming of what he feels he desires, what is necessary, or what is right, and make those choices in a setting that is unfamiliar and now suddenly frightening to him. If any character represents the everyman put in an extraordinary situation, it is Voight.
In essence Deliverance felt like an exploration of violence, it’s nature, and how it influences and plays into humanity. What could make one regular man turn into something just as dismal and morally compromised as some of the characters go through? Are they right? Are they wrong? The film doesn’t give you an answer and that ambiguity makes it a more natural finale. At least then you don’t get the feeling that you are being preached to or taught a lesson. The events are there, it’s up to you to decide. Deliverance lived up to it’s controversy and is certainly a movie worth seeing, though repetitive viewings aren’t something I could fathom anyone doing.
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