John Boorman’s Deliverance is a taut, tense and truly haunting meditation on man, nature and the nature of man that bitterly chews on the themes of rape, religion, society and survival. 40 years on from its original release, this masterfully shot and structured thriller remains a seminal piece of American cinema that has lost none of its power or importance.
The plot is simple: a jolly boy’s weekend in the deep south descends into a fight for survival as four ordinary blokes (each signifying different positions in western society) scrap and paddle down a perilious river following a horrific assault by some gun totting hillbillies. Adapted for the screen from his own hit novel, James Dickey and director Boorman pretty much revolutionized mainstream cinema with one fell swoop. Deliverance was the the first great film of the 1970’s and contributed a great deal into making it one of the most decorated decades in the annals of Hollywood.
One of the many beauties of Deliverance is the sheer potency of its layers. On the one hand, it’s a pitch perfect thriller that’ll grip and stir as good as any movie ever made. On the other, it’s a harrowing discussion on mankind’s rape of the natural world and the wrath of Mother Earth.
Deliverance (1972), directed by John Boorman, is released on DVD in the UK by Warner Bros. Pictures, Certificate 18.