Deliverance
(1972)











Rated: R
Runtime: 1 Hour and 49 Minutes


Reviewer: Dale
Grade: A

Three years ago, I went to Missouri with a friend. We went camping, we did some canoeing and we went bike-riding. It was a lot of fun and we escaped our usual lives for eleven days, which is something that you have to do sometimes. You have to get out and explore the world around you. You owe it to yourself to see some places other than the one in which you live. I met some really cool people (and a few rather strange ones, including a fourteen year old kid who had been driving for about six years) and I had some neat experiences and I generally had a pretty good time.

Boy, am I glad that I had not seen this movie before I went on that trip.

If I had, I might not have gone. Even if I had gone, I would definitely have been on the lookout for people who would tell me that I have "a real pretty mouth".

"Deliverance" is a movie that gets under your skin, and you might not want it there. It is the story of four men who, on a weekend, decide to go canoeing down a river that will soon be destroyed when a dam is created near it. Burt Reynolds (very early in his career, and he has rarely been this good) is the catalyst for this trip. He claims to love nature. What he really loves is the idea of proving that he is better than all of God's outdoors. Jon Voight plays the man we can most identify with. He's an average man with modest goals and a simple, happy life. He doesn't exactly know why he goes along with Burt's little trips. He just does. Ronny Cox (you may remember him as the villain in "Robocop" and "Total Recall") is a man who loves to play his guitar and is very levelled headed. Ned Beatty is the wise-cracking hothead.
After their weekend in the wilderness, it is safe to say that none of them will be the same.

One of them will not even survive.

"Deliverance" is the story of man against Nature. But that is a bit deceptive. The rapids and the rocks are treacherous, yes, but what is even more treacherous are the sides they soon discover of themselves. They are shocked to discover some of the things they are capable of under extreme circumstances and so are we. Each of the main actors does a good job of showing us how each of these men reacts, differently, to the things that they face. The cinematography is gorgeous. The sound effects do an excellent job of setting up the place that these men are in. There isn't even a musical score. Aside from the "Dueling banjos" at the beginning, there is no little music. Banjo themes are used from time to time to underscore certain moments, and it is much more low key and effective than an orchestra would have been. It is a masterful choice.

At no point in the movie does this situation feel fake. At no time do you sense that they are simply on a soundstage. The realism of this film is its main selling point. As the film progresses, it is, by turns, harrowing, exciting, thrilling and depressing. One thing it never is, however, is humorous. That would be totally wrong for this film and I am glad that no humor was shoehorned into the plot. Ned Beatty's rape scene at the hands of sadistic hillbillies may have been a punchline for jokes ever since, but there is absolutely nothing funny about the way it's filmed. It is a raw, brutal scene. If you winced during the moment when Ving Rhames takes it in the rear in "Pulp Fiction" then you will be utterly shocked by this scene.

The ending does not disappoint either. Sometimes a horrible, tragic ending is a depressing thing. But I think it is far more unnerving to be left with the feeling that, although things look alright, they may not be so good after all. The events of the movie leave scars on these people, both physical and emotional. The physical scars, no matter how deep the cuts are, will heal with time. We know that is so.

From the reaction of the main character in the end sequence, however, we know that mental healing will not come as quickly.

In fact, it may never come at all.