Galvanizing, realistic story of four friends who go canoeing on the dangerous waters of the Cahulawassee River and find it a trip they'll never forget. An American classic, and perhaps the most terrifying non-horror film ever made. "Dueling Banjos", first encounter with frightening back-country men, and climax on mountain are unforgettable highlights. Phenomenal editing by Tom Priestley, exhilarating river sequences are tip of the iceberg.
Deliverance is a film that holds a strong cultural line between country and city life which it conveys in an excellent manner. The locations used are beautiful as they convey the more grey side of the country, more dark and gloomy land against a river running rapidly. It explores the land deeply, mainly through excellent cinematography which is used to angle the land in views from all different directions. It conveys the beauty of the natural land as well as the darkness of it, ensuring Deliverance is given a strong setting to be based in, especially as it is conveyed as if the land has never been seen by anyone and is unknown territory, just as the main characters would view it.
The atmosphere is masterful, as director John Boorman makes use of silence to enhance the mysterious feel of unknown land. Yet the music used at the beginning of the film is an eccentric and energetic country piece which conveys the type of land the characters have entered. It's an excellent and memorable moment with terrific music, and similar music plays later on in a slower pace to convey the slow moving structure of country life, even when it's used as the characters are rushing down the rapids of a river. It just maintains a constant atmosphere so strongly that we see the main characters as the fishes out of water the normal folk see them as, and John Boorman's role as director is truly deserving of very much acclaim, because his handling of the story takes a laid-back approach to the events so we understand how the atmosphere naturally exists in the world the characters are in. His direction perfectly contextualises the story. And it's special, particularly because handling such a story is rough territory to charter into, but he treats it as the author and screenwriter James Dickey has clearly intended, and in due process turns it into a landmark thriller movie. One reason it does this well is by never tying the characters to the setting. It makes it abundantly clear that the land does not welcome them, nor do the people. It develops into the fear the characters gain of the wild land as they become trapped in it, forced to commit actions which they cannot comprehend doing in their own town. They drown themselves in fear and paranoia of what will happen, and slowly they collapse psychologically. The development is flawless, particularly at one scene where the characters deal with murder. They don't play it off as something that just happened. They actually realise "We just murdered somebody!". How they attempt to deal with it individually is emphasised excellent, particularly since death has grown to becomes such a commodity amongst film and something characters can cause without flinching. But in Deliverance it's different. It's incredible.
But what's the best part is how a story as simple as that of Deliverance can be so thrilling and so clever in the manner that it psychologically manipulates its characters, and its truly an excellent spectacle.
And the cast of Deliverance keeps it alive.
Jon Voigt leads the story strongly in Deliverance portraying Ed Gentry, the character perhaps most haunted by everything, even when what happened to Bobby Trippe would be significantly more scarring. He strongly conveys his internal struggles and psychological dysfunction after a series of cataclysmic events leave him shattered, and the way he frantically is forced to turn strong in a hard situation is an excellent scene for the characters development.
And Burt Reynolds makes a breakthrough in Deliverance. Before he became iconically comedic for his work in Smokey and The Bandit he worked immensely into his character in Deliverance, portraying a character with strong physicality but a weak ego in his characterisation of Lewis Medlock. Deliverance is a front for his immense skill at dramatic work very early in in his career and foreshadows some of his most acclaimed work in serious dramatic character roles, such as his Academy Award nominated turn in Boogie Nights.
Ned Beatty also worked tremendously hard to secure a powerful performance in Deliverance , and since his character is put through a forcible male rape sequence it's difficult not to feel shocked by the dynamics, but Ned Beatty works with this and conveys the horrific fear from the moment in his character perfectly. The scene is unforgettable and his work is deserving of serious acclaim.
Ronny Cox was also good.
Essentially, Deliverance is a masterful thriller constructed excellently on a low budget with shocks and fears that are haunting in their imagery and are absolutely unforgettable.
The payoff, in comparisson to its development leaves a ton to be desired, but Deliverance still manages to have a very serious and hostile tone that very few movies ever manage to achieve in its simplicity.
"Sometimes you have to lose yourself before you can find anything."
and Jesse Helms. Deliverance is the implausible story of a group of men taking a raft ride down a river in the deep south and being accosted every step of the way by the locals. Natives of the backwoods south are portrayed as inbred simpletons whose violent natures are beyond any sort of restraint. None of the protagonists give any thought of contacting local authorities, who can only be assumed to be "libs" in cahoots with the "good old boys." Of course being on a raft on a river in the woods isn't any excuse, surely there is some house near the river with a telephone? No Hollywood tells us, everyone is a mass murderer who is armed to the teeth.