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|Movie Review by Ben |
December 23rd, 2007
"Deliverance" is one of the most unforgettable movies to come out of the 1970s, and it is also one of the most terrifying movies ever made. Nothing will compare to the first time that I saw it over a decade ago in my parent's family room. I never felt like I watched "Deliverance," I felt like I experienced it. I felt like I was on that canoe trip with those four Atlanta businessmen, and I was just as desperate after awhile to paddle all the way to Aintry as quickly as possible. Lord knows how popular I might be with them hillbillies!
"Deliverance" starts quickly as we see the four businessmen (Burt Reynolds, Jon Voight, Ronny Cox, and Ned Beatty) driving on down to the river while we here Burt in conversation with the guys about why they needed to take this adventurous trip. Lewis Medlock, played by Burt Reynolds in what is still his best performance ever, wants them to see the Cahulawassee River in Georgia before it is turned into a huge lake. The state is building a dam which is slowly raising the water level, and it will soon swallow up the river and the surrounding town. As the movie goes on, we can see the trees being slowly drowned in the river. It is the last time they will ever get to see the river like this.
The movie is based on the novel by James Dickey who also did the screenplay adaptation of it. Among the themes he examines here is that of man vs. nature, and how man has "raped" the wilderness and sold it out for all it was worth. But now, nature is going to come back at these men and put them into a situation that there never can be an escape from.
What makes "Deliverance" one of the most memorable movies to come out of the 1970s is not its raw acts of brutality and violence, but that it pulls you in the way few other movies do. This is not a movie that you can just sit back passively and watch. You experience it along with those four businessmen on the screen. You are with them as they escape the river before it swallows them whole. You are as eager as they are to get the hell off of that river, and you fear death more than ever before. The journey these men go through changes them permanently as it will change you while viewing it. We are left in a nightmare that we can never fully wake up from, and we live in fear of what we have buried, for it may come back...
"Deliverance" was directed by John Boorman who has one of the strangest and most bipolar track records of any film director I can think of, He has gone from directing classics like this to filming such infamous disasters like "Exorcist II: The Heretic." There never seems to be any in between with this guy. His movies are either brilliant, or they are god awful. Thankfully, his best work easily takes away the stench of his celluloid crap. Along with cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond, he brilliantly captures the beauty and the danger of the river traveled, and the world that will soon be enveloped in a watery tomb forever (or so our Atlanta businessmen soon hope).
I still think that Burt Reynolds gives his best performance in this movie. Ever since he grew that mustache, he has never been the same, and he made way too many movies that were utter crap. It is almost impossible to believe that this was Ned Beatty's first movie role, but it is easy to believe that it will always be his most memorable. Ronny Cox easily comes across as the moral conscience of the movie, and I wonder if he has ever had another role as a good guy since this movie. When I see Ronny these days, it is usually as ruthlessly evil corporate CEO.
Jon Voight's performance in this film is still my favorite of his work, and that's regardless of what you may think of him in "Coming Home." He eventually has to find the dark side in himself in order to come out of the river alive, and he ends up discovering things about himself that he probably would never have liked to find out. The look on his face at the end of the movie is of man who will never feel comfortable in his own skin ever again, and that's something he will have to live with.
There is also a great performance here by James Dickey, the same man who wrote the book the movie is based on. He plays Sheriff Bullard, the Sheriff of Aintry who would like to see this town "die a peaceful death." With his brief time on screen, he comes across as an intimidating presence that threatens to tear away the fašade these Atlanta businessmen hide under.
I mean it when I say that "Deliverance" is one of the most memorable movies to emerge from that golden decade of the 1970s. It is also one of the most timeless, and age has not affected its power to shock and unnerve.
At the very least, you have got to check it out for the Dueling Banjos scene! That's one scene that I never ever get sick of!
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