'Deliverance' Review: Squeal Piggy
Prior to this month’s assignment list I’d heard nothing about Deliverance, to me it was one of those movies that won or got nominated for an Oscar a long time ago but fell into obscurity – looking at you Shakespeare in Love. Though summaries around the internet piqued my interest, I still had no idea what to expect, at the mention of a gruesome rape scene and unforgettable disgust with human nature, I tried to keep an open mind. Though I really did enjoy my time with the film, it seems to me that its thoughtful questions on isolation fell victim to questionable pacing and poor aging.
For the unacquainted, Deliverance follows four men from the city who decide to take a canoe trip down a beautiful river before the government floods it into a lake. Three are regular suburban married with children types and the fourth embodies the Les Stroud wild man. Throughout the course of their journey deeper and deeper into the woods, they encounter the hillbilly natives to the river land and fight for their survival. As the story goes on, the deeper message of man vs self and not man vs man is unveiled. As their journey comes to a close, the – physically and mentally – damaged men are crawling their way back to society.
As the film follows the main character Ed and how he copes with survival in the wilderness with little help from his friends, he reverts back to primal instincts. Without the macho survivor-man Lewis (who’s injured) to help them, it’s up to Ed to guide his party back to civilization. In addition, he also has to face whatever or whoever is hunting them down the rapids. As a result, Ed’s actions and thoughts shift to a more basic instinct; survival. Ed – a regular John just like his other two friends – bears the responsibility of guarding his friends from danger by being cruel and cold in his choices. At one point, he decides that to survive, he has to help himself more than his friends – thus furthering his transformation into the metaphorical predator.
Along with a very deep and sometimes hard to digest message, Deliverance is a treasure trove of beautiful scenery. Wonderful shots of river rapids and lush forest settings make the movie a pleasure to simply look at. The party canoes down glistening waters and characters scale immense cliffs while the reel turns, some of the tensest moments in the film are when they are at their most beautiful.
However, there are negatives to this movie as I mentioned. Though it might be the style of directing that irks me, some shots and sequences of canoeing seem overdone and painfully long. Yes, the film takes place in absolute eye-candy but there are only so many minutes that music and dialogue absent footage can retain attention. Again, my disposition to films that deal with raw substance or more fast-paced sequences might be to blame. It seems however, that at almost two hours and with all the unnecessary footage, the film feels much too long. Director John Boorman efforts to contrast the epic environment against a character’s repulsive evolution should be commended, but there could have certainly been more economic directing.
Being a fan of The Wire I can appreciate having little to no music in a movie, but again, constant river flow and pain screams only hold one’s interest for so long. It seems Boorman cashed all of his music direction budget on the movie’s opening guitar and banjo duet.
Though certainly worth a look for any film connoisseur, Deliverance is not a movie I would recommend to the laymen. It reaches for unfathomable substance but delivers baseless style a majority of the time. Though the acting in the film is certainly something to be marveled at, there’s not enough Burt Reynolds grunting in the world to keep all of my attention in this movie.