Browse all reviews by letter     A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z 0 - 9

USA 1972
Directed by
John Boorman
109 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4.5 stars


This action-adventure film about four middle class males (Jon Voight, Burt Reynolds, Ned Beatty and Ronny Cox) who encounter disastrous culture-shock over a summer weekend's river-canoeing trip is one of the most memorable films of the 1970s. It was nominated for three Academy Awards, Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Film Editing but won none as it had the misfortune to be released the same year as Coppola's The Godfather and Bob Fosse's Cabaret which took out the first and latter two Oscars respectively.

The story, based on James Dickey's adaptation of his own 1970 best-selling novel, economically spoke to a city-dweller's fear of nature and is simple but direct whilst the characterisations and performance combinrd with Vilmos Zsigmond's photography and John Boorman's understated but on point direction all give the film great strength.

Although in a far less spectacular way than Herzog's Aguirre, Wrath Of God which was released the same year, part of its effectiveness comes from Boorman's commitment to authenticity, the film being shot entirely (voice-overs are used very effectively at the beginning of the film to establish the context of the narrative without illustrative footage) on location in northern Georgia and without stand-ins except for a couple of scenes.

Aside from making use of locals, notably in the famous "Duelling Banjos" scene. Cox and Beatty were theatre actors making their film debuts. Voight, who was persuaded by Boorman to take the role of the pipe-smoking suburbanite was well-known as a result of Midnight Cowboy (1969) whilst a former stuntman languishing in B-grade dross, Burt Reynolds, in a brilliant career move from which he never looked back, took the role of bow-and-arrow wielding, would-be survivalist, Lewis, after it was turned down by James Stewart, Marlon Brando, and Henry Fonda on account of its on-location hazards. Indeed no-one would insure the production and it is remarkable that none of the leads was injured.

My only reservation toward what is a compelling film is the way that the question of whether or not Drew was shot is left so ambiguous.

FYI: The director's son, Charlie, who appears at the end of the film as Jon Voight's son, would play the lead in another Boorman film that also explored the nature/culture divide, The Emerald Forest, 1985.




Want something different?

random vintage best worst