Amazingly made film, this keeps a strong sense of tone and foreboding going from the first frame to the last. Beautifully shot by
Vilmos Zigmond (although a few manipulated day for night shots look a bit wacky). The film moves at an even, moderate pace,
without ever hurting the tension or drama.
Thematically, it is an examination of the destructive nature of male machismo, the price of survival, the darkness of the human
heart, the lies we're willing to tell ourselves and the world to get on, and the split between those of the land and those who use the land.
These are not small themes, and sometimes they're a little too on the nose (e.g. dialogue like 'sometimes you have to get lost to find
yourself' – although I'm not sure if the film is embracing that platitude or making very dark fun of it). At other times exactly what it's
saying seems a bit fuzzy, or like it wants to have all its thematic cakes and eat them too. (Men need to be challenged to find their real
self, but – on the other hand – trying to find your 'real self' may be an illusory path to your own destruction, literal or metaphoric).
Also, I could see the poverty stricken people of the US Appalachian mountains, who already carry understandable anger as being
constantly portrayed as stupid, inbred and violent, taking offense to the film, and they'd have a point.
Yet all that said, this is a movie that's more about a visceral experience than a collage thesis dissection, and that is where 'Deliverance'
excels. It takes us to hell, and only partly back, and we get immersed in the journey in a way all too few films pull off. It is quite like
being lost in a bad dream. And I mean that as a compliment.