Based on the novel by James Dickey, Hollywood just can’t make movies as brutal and uncompromising as like John Boorman’s Deliverance (1972) anymore. Rough and unflinching in its violence, Deliverance is a movie that reminds us that anyone of us could end up in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The story introduces us to four businessmen from Atlanta, Georgia: Lewis (Burt Reynolds), the de-facto leader of the group, is a tough wilderness junkie; Bobby (Ned Beatty) is a beefy, somewhat insecure insurance salesman; Drew (Ronny Cox) is an affable musician; and the thoughtful Ed (Jon Voight) who decide to take a canoe trip down the Cahulawassee River in Northern Georgia before it’s dammed by the power company. With the exception of Lewis, who is a true who is a man’s-man and Ed, who has joined Lewis on a couple of nature expeditions, the other men have no experience with such trips. This would have been an exceedingly difficult journey even if things had gone exactly as planned. However, a quick stop to catch their breath, quickly thrusts the foursome into a battle to survive. The turning point, one seminal event, remains one of the most disturbing sequences ever seen on film.
Across the board, the performances in this film are amazing. Special recognition goes to Ned Beatty, who was acting in his first film and whose character is at the center of the “event.” He doesn’t say anything for quite awhile, but his body and facial expressions tell us everything we need to know. Known for his tough guy roles, Burt Reynolds is at his best here too. Forced to listen to the others after the incident, he eventually must cede leadership of the group to Ed after he injures his leg. Ronny Cox (also in his first film role), does an excellent job as Drew, a rather quiet guy who offers the only hint of dissent when things get tough. Hot off his performance in Midnight Cowboy, Jon Voight gives an understated, yet powerful performance as Ed, a man who wants to be a leader like Lewis, but doesn’t have the courage until he has no other choice.
Deliverance was nominated for three Oscars in 1973, including best film editing, best director, and best picture. In my opinion, Jon Voight and Ned Beatty should have been nominated as well. All of the actors did their own stunts and John Boorman’s direction is fantastic. His greatest skill here is restraint; he isn’t afraid to let the camera linger on certain shots and use a limited score, which allows a given scene to speak for itself. Forty years after its initial release, Deliverance remains potent in this age of CGI films because it relies on putting real people in truly harrowing situations. Hollywood just doesn’t make many films like that anymore.
Warner uses the same remaster of the film that they did for their 2007 release, but it’s hardly what I would call a disappointment. Framed at 2.40:1, this 1080p transfer maintains Boorman’s soft (almost steamy) appearance. Given the outdoor lighting conditions, day-time scenes and close-ups reveal the most detail. Edges are free of ringing or related issues. Any issues appear to be as a result of the source, rather than issues with the encode. Given this films age, Warner has delivered a fine transfer.
The real draw here is the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track. The entire experience is more immersive than the earlier release. Dialogue and music cues are clean and crisp, while preserving the sounds of the river and nature throughout. While LFE isn’t fantastic, fans should be very pleased with this mix.
English SDH, French, Spanish, German SDH, Italian SDH, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Norwegian and Swedish subtitles are available.
The following special features are included:
The single disc release is housed in a matte-finish Digibook with 58 pages of behind-the-scenes photos, essays, cast bios, quotes and more.
- Deliverance: The Cast Looks Back (HD, 30 minutes): In this newly produced retrospective, Deliverance‘s leading men—Jon Voight, Ned Beatty, Burt Reynolds and Ronny Cox—gather to remember the film that changed their lives. Their candid, amusing conversation covers the production, the challenges of filming and the film’s legacy. This piece is definitely worth a look for fans.
- Four-Part Retrospective (SD, 55 minutes): The 2007 Blu-ray edition’s special features begin with this terrific four-part documentary that examines author James Dickey’s best-selling novel, the film’s sequential shoot, its locations and rivers, the now famous Dueling Banjos scene, its rape sequence, the subsequent controversies that accompanied its theatrical release, and the film’s final shot. Segments include “The Beginning,” “The Journey,” “Betraying the River” and “Delivered.”
- Audio Commentary: Director John Boorman discusses everything from the project’s development to its budgetary constraints, location shoot, performances, difficult scenes, stunts and more. All-in-all, this makes for an informative listen.
- Vintage Featurette (SD, 10 minutes): Though dated, its behind-the-scenes footage and tidbits are quite interesting.
- Theatrical Trailer (SD, 3 minutes)
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