Four ordinary men in two canoes navigate a river they only know as a line on a map, taking on a wilderness they only think they understand.
Deliverance, based by James Dickey on his novel, surges with the urgency of masterful storytelling, like Georgia’s Chattooga River along which it was shot. Equally masterful is the portrayal of each man’s change of character under stress, harrowingly enacted by award winners Jon Voight, Burt Reynolds, Ned Beatty and Ronny Cox. Director John Boorman (Excalibur, The General) sets us on the knife-edge of survival - and draws us in with the irresistible force of a raging current.
One of the key films of the 1970s, John Boorman's Deliverance is a nightmarish adaptation of poet-novelist James Dickey's book about various kinds of survival in modern America. The story concerns four Atlanta businessmen of various male stripe: Jon Voight's character is a reflective, civilized fellow, Burt Reynolds plays a strapping hunter-gatherer in urban clothes, Ned Beatty is a sweaty, weak-willed boy-man, and Ronny Cox essays a spirited, neighborly type. Together they decide to answer the ancient call of men testing themselves against the elements and set out on a treacherous ride on the rapids of an Appalachian river. What they don't understand until it is too late is that they have ventured into Dickey's variation on the American underbelly, a wild, lawless, dangerous (and dangerously inbred) place isolated from the gloss of the late 20th century. In short order, the four men dig deep into their own suppressed primitiveness, defending themselves against armed cretins, facing the shock of real death on their carefully planned, death-defying adventure, and then squarely facing the suspicions of authority over their concealed actions. Boorman, a master teller of stories about individuals on peculiarly mythical journeys, does a terrifying and beautiful job of revealing the complexity of private and collective character--the way one can never be the same after glimpsing the sharp-clawed survivor in one's soul. --Tom Keogh