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Sherlock’s Classics: Film Review – Deliverance (1972)

Article image for Sherlock’s Classics: Film Review – Deliverance (1972)

Screen veterans Jon Voight, Burt Reynolds, Ned Beatty and Ronnie Cox star in this captivating and controversially iconic multi Oscar nominated thriller of four city friends who play ‘weekend warriors’ intent on seeing the spectacular but doomed Cahulawassee River before it’s turned into one huge lake by going canoeing on a river-rafting trip. 

Based on the best-selling novel by author and co-screenwriter James Dickey, what starts as an innocent ‘boy’s own’ adventure soon turns into a dark and dangerous odyssey through the American back-country and becomes a desperate and brutal knife-edge battle for survival.

A sweeping vision with a lyrically eccentric poetic style, this powerfully kinetic confrontation and surrealistic juxtaposition of nature and civilisation between modern man and the changing landscape is fiercely driven by five time Oscar nominated co-screenwriter, producer and director John Boorman.

Boorman excels with a master-class of storytelling and direction with a tight grip on every frame of every second of every beat of the heart with a searing tautness and deceptively unforgiving and unflinching intensity unlike anything before or since on the screen, and brought vividly to life by Oscar winning cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond with a breathtaking tapestry of nature and all the beauty and underlying mystery it holds.

The performances by Jon Voight, still riding high on his Oscar nominated performance in John Schlesinger’s ‘Midnight Cowboy,’ Burt Reynolds, and then newcomers Ronnie Cox and Ned Beatty in his first ever screen role, are all equally compelling with an individually unique heartrending portrait of fear, intensity and determination.

Devoid of the more traditional Hollywood music score, the replacement with the ‘Duelling Banjos’ sequence and subsequence theme is yet another masterstroke by John Boorman, and as a result ‘Deliverance’ a haunting, raw, compelling, chilling and unforgettable experience, and one of the great landmark films of 20th century cinema. 

Stars: *****

Special Features:

  • A 4-Part Anniversary Retrospective with the Film’s Stars, Director John Boorman and others.
  • Audio Commentary by Director John Boorman.
  • Vintage Featurette: The Dangerous World of Deliverance.
  • The Original Theatrical Trailer.