DELIVERANCEUnited States-1972

Burt Reynolds as Lewis

Ned Beatty as Bobby

Ronny Cox as Drew

Directed by John Boorman

Screenplay by James Dickey

Based on the novel by James Dickey

I’ve been racking my brain trying to think of how I was going to review this movie. It’s a classic, there’s no doubt about that. But every time I watch it I always find myself asking one question: deliverance from what or from whom? For Lewis (Burt Reynolds) the answer is clear. His deliverance is from the ordinary, the mundane life that comes with living in the big city. The chance to explore a part of nature, the Cahulawassee River, before it is dammed up and forever lost is something that he cannot deny himself. But what of the other three; what is their moment of deliverance? You can understand why I have trouble reviewing this film.

But then I realized that maybe that’s exactly what director John Boorman and writer James Dickey wanted of us, the viewer. They wanted us to wonder, to ponder, to think on something as simple as the title of this film and its meaning. That would merely serve to make the ride even more thrilling. Is the deliverance for the four a way of life far from the very mountain people that they encounter?  I believe that each person who has ever watched this film has come away with a different perspective on it than the person before them. On the surface, Deliverance is a thriller about canoeing, hillbillies and backwoods murder. Dig deeper and it becomes so much more than that. Isn’t that the measuring stick against which all great films are placed?


Billy Redden, the boy with the banjo liked Ronny Cox, and disliked Ned Beatty. When at the end of the dueling banjos scene, the script called for Billy to harden his expression towards Drew Ballinger, Cox’s character, he was unable to fake dislike for Cox. To solve the problem, they got Beatty to step towards Billy at the close of the shot. As Beatty approached, Billy hardened his expression and looked away – exactly as intended.

To minimize costs, the production wasn’t insured – and the actors did their own stunts. (For instance, Jon Voight actually climbed the cliff.)

“Dueling Banjos” was the first scene shot. The rest of the movie was almost entirely shot in sequence.

Ned Beatty’s first film.

“Dueling Banjos”, which won a Grammy for Best “Original” Song, is simply a bluegrass version of “Yankee Doodle”.