Wednesday, August 13, 2014


Based on the novel by James Dickey, Deliverance is the story of four men who go on a canoe trip up north Georgia where they would encounter some dark events that would turn their trip into a hellish experience. Directed by John Boorman and screenplay by Boorman and Dickey, the film is an exploration into a group of men who venture into the unknown as well as deal with locals who come from a world of lawlessness. Starring Burt Reynolds, Jon Voight, Ned Beatty, and Ronny Cox. Deliverance is a terrifying and chilling film from John Boorman.

The film revolves around four Atlanta businessmen who go on a canoe trip to a river in north Georgia as the river is about to become a lake. Upon their trip down river, the four men would encounter two mountain men as it would be a trip into hell as its aftermath would force the men to figure out what just happened and what to do. The film’s screenplay by James Dickey and un-credited work from John Boorman showcases a world where four men really don’t know much about the wilderness other than the more brash Lewis (Burt Reynolds) who is very experienced as he and friend Ed Gentry (Jon Voight) know about canoeing as they invited friends Bobby Trippe (Ned Beatty) and Drew Ballinger (Ronny Cox). By canoeing on this river that is about to become a lake where a town is about to be submerged due to the construction of a new dam. The four would go through some rapids and parts of nature which is easy compared to what is really out there when Ed and Bobby would have a chilling encounter with two mountain men.

All of these events would take place in the film’s first half where it’s second half is actually more compelling where the four deal with not just the encounter of the two mountain men but also the consequences. Lewis would be the man to drive everything as he is someone who is aware that they’re in a world where law and order wouldn’t make sense but there’s also a sense of morality over right and wrong that Drew is trying to bring into play. All of which would then lead into a more treacherous journey back home as well as a lot of confusion and terror where it’s third act wouldn’t just about death but also guilt over what happened.

Boorman’s direction is quite gripping though it doesn’t start off that way where the film seems to be quaint and jovial where Drew would encounter an albino boy named Lonnie (Billy Redden) playing banjo where the two would do a rendition of Dueling Banjos. Shot on location at the Chattooga River in north Georgia as well as the Tallulah Gorge southeast of the state plus a few locations in South Carolina and the Appalachian Mountains. The film has this very Southern feel where it is quite grimy and eerie where the characters who live in this area play by different rules. Especially as the two mountain men live in a world that is very different as they would do things to Ed and Bobby that are quite gruesome. It’s aftermath where Lewis gets very involved would make the film much more chilling where Boorman’s direction would be filled with these captivating close-ups and medium shots to display some dramatic tension.

Even as Boorman goes right into the action for the river-rafting scenes where he has his camera to showcase all of the dangerous aspect of the rapids and how things can go awry. There’s also some elements of surrealism which adds to the element of fear during a chilling climax that involves Ed as it plays to his own issues with shooting a bow-and-arrow at a deer which he realizes he couldn’t kill. Things would eventually slow down towards the end as it is all about the major characters contemplating about everything that had happened as well as ambiguities over what really did happen. Overall, Boorman crafts a very mesmerizing yet harrowing film about survival in the wilderness.

Cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond does brilliant work with the film‘s cinematography that captures the stark beauty of the locations with a bit of grainy camera work and a few effects that adds to the surrealism as Zsigmond‘s work is a major highlight of the film. Editor Tom Priestley does fantastic work with the editing with its approach to jump-cuts and other stylish cuts to play into the film‘s suspense and terror that looms throughout the film. Art director Fred Harpman and set decorator Morris Hoffman do terrific work with the minimal sets such as the ruined garages and shacks early in the film to the church that is being driven through the city.

Sound editor Jim Atkinson does superb work with the sound from the way some of the natural elements of the location sounds to the way it help builds up the sense of terror. The film’s music only consists of sparse, folk-based pieces only played on guitar and banjo as it’s just variations of Dueling Banjos that really adds to the chilling tone of the film.

The casting by Lynn Stalmaster is great as it features some notable small roles from writer James Dickey as a sheriff late in the film and Billy Redden as the albino boy who can play a mean banjo. Herbert “Cowboy” Coward and Bill McKinney are amazing in their roles as the devious mountain men with Coward as the guy with less teeth and McKinney as the more slimy man who has a particular liking for Bobby. Ronny Cox is excellent as Drew as this man who likes to play guitar as he would become the film’s moral conscience as he wants to do what he feels is right over the situation that had happened.

Ned Beatty is superb as Bobby as this fat guy who becomes a victim over his encounters with the mountain men as he tries to deal with what happened to him and how to move on from it. Burt Reynolds is fantastic as Lewis as this experienced outdoorsman who is quite arrogant yet knows how to get things done as he is also a very intense figure that knows how to lead. Finally, there’s Jon Voight in a brilliant performance as Ed as this man who has been outdoors but struggles with his own feelings about killing as he also endures the sense of humiliation and terror in his encounter with the mountain men.

Deliverance is a phenomenal film from John Boorman. Armed with a great cast, gripping visuals, and a terrifying premise. It is a film that isn’t just one of the finest films about the American South at its ugliest but it’s a suspense film that plays into the dark soul of humanity. In the end, Deliverance is an outstanding film from John Boorman.

John Boorman Films: (Catch Us If You Can) - (Point Blank (1967 film)) - (Hell in the Pacific) - (Leo the Last) - (Zardoz) - (Exorcist II: The Heretic) - (Excalibur) - (The Emerald Forest) - (Hope and Glory) - (Where the Heart Is (1990 film)) - (I Dreamt I Woke Up) - (Two Nudes Bathing) - (Beyond Rangoon) - (The General (1998 film)) - (The Tailor of Panama) - (In My Country) - (The Tiger’s Tail) - (Queen and Country)

© thevoid99 2014


ruth said...

To be honest with you, I'm kinda terrified to see this one. Someone told me of a particularly gruesome scene and so I actually read about the ENTIRE plot on IMDb/Wiki. I don't think this one is for me, but I trust your judgment that it's indeed a phenomenal film.

thevoid99 said...

It is a terrifying film. Yet, it is filled with a lot of ambiguities and some dark humor. I love this film and it is nuts.

Brittani Burnham said...

This movie is SO creepy. I haven't seen it in years, but I probably should re-watch it even though I will hate myself afterwards. lol

thevoid99 said...

@Brittani-It is such a dark film and extremely unsettling. It is still one of those great thrillers though it has been parodied a bunch of times such as South Park where they had Spielberg and Lucas as those guys and Indiana Jones as the victim.