Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Alternate Best Actor 1972: Jon Voight and Burt Reynolds in Deliverance

Jon Voight did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite being nominated for a Golden Globe, for portraying Ed Gentry, and Burt Reynolds did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Lewis Medlock in Deliverance.

Deliverance is a very effective thriller about a group of four men who venture into dangerous backwoods to go on a river-rafting trip.

Jon Voight plays Ed one of the four "city-folk" who go off into the backwoods for the rafting trip on a secluded river. Voight portrays Ed at the beginning of the film as just a fairly easy going sort of guy. Voight is likable enough in portraying Ed as basically just wanting to go and enjoy his vacation with his friends. Voight nicely plays Ed as just a normal guy looking for a good time. The same can't quite be said about Burt Reynolds's Lewis. Reynolds plays the part with a country twang that almost sounds exactly like the sort of accent Paul Newman used in Hud. Burt Reynolds plays Lewis in a somewhat larger than life fashion, although  with a clever twist about it. Reynolds does not plays Lewis as though he is truly some sort action hero, or great adventurer, but rather positions him as a man who believes himself to be. Reynold has a considerable swagger in the way Lewis walks and talks. Everything he does Reynolds plays as possibly a bit much, although this seems to be intentionally so as he shows Lewis to be man who wants to be this adventurer, which works particularly well against Voight who keeps Ed as such a unpretentious sort of man. 

The opening scenes of the film show the four men as they make the preparations for their trip which includes some awkward interactions with the locals. Voight and Reynolds both are good in portraying the different ways in which they interact with the people they don't exactly fit in with in the least. Reynolds conveys a certain disdain in Lewis's whole manner towards the people. There is perhaps something even more than just the disdain that Reynolds suggests. There is a bit of sly grin and just the way he looks at them that alludes to something even more problematic from Lewis. Reynolds shows that Lewis is attempting to egg em on a bit as though he wants trouble merely to perhaps prove himself a bit. Voight on the other hand expresses Ed once again as just a man trying to be as pleasant as the situation deems possible. He effectively portrays some unease in the interactions though in no way intentional, or even offensive just instead suggesting the disconnect between his life and the lives of those people. Voight is especially good in his scenes with Reynolds as he does well to react quite honestly showing both a disbelief and a bit annoyance as fails to understand why his friend seems to be purposefully looking for trouble.

The beginning of the trip goes well enough even though it is obvious that the other two men Bobby (Ned Beatty) and Drew (Ronny Cox) have a bit of a learning curve to go through. A good scene early on is when Ed is shooting the breeze with Lewis at a resting spot while Lewis is showing off his archery skills by shooting fish in the river. While doing this they have a bit of a philosophical discussion in regards to survival. Reynolds is quite good by showing the honestly slightly demented view of Lewis as he speaks about survival in a most peculiar way. Reynolds does well because he presents such a pride in Lewis as he shoots his arrows and boasts about his survival skills while being so very cheerful at the idea of some sort of social collapse. Reynolds believable creates this odd view as he shows that Lewis more than anything relishes the chance to basically prove that he's as awesome as he thinks he is. Voight again does fine work in being the understated counterpoint that provides a balance for Reynolds's work. Voight portrays just the very genuine reactions of one friend to another kinda shaking his head at his friend, who he knows is kinda serious but does not exactly know what he means either. Voight is good in exuding the contentment in Ed as he clearly just enjoys the trip and does not see it as the proving ground Lewis views it to be.

The turn takes a sudden dark turn when the separated Ed and Bobby on a break are approached by two armed mountain men. Although Ed and Bobby try to be pleasant enough things quickly become dangerous as the men begin to threaten them with their weapons before they tie Ed to a tree and force Bobby to strip at gunpoint. Voight's performance here is excellent as he amplifies the horror of the scene through his particularly honest portrayal of Ed's terror as the situation only becomes worse as one of the men begins to rape Bobby. Voight brings the needed fear into Ed as it becomes clear that they very well might not come out of the situation alive. Their savior comes in the form of Lewis who sneaks up on the situation, and Voight's terrified reaction is perfect as he nods for Lewis to take the killing shot against the mountain man who violated Bobby. Voight is terrific in the moment because he expresses no malice but rather just the desire of survival in Ed. Reynolds perhaps has his best scene as the four discuss what they should do next. Reynolds is fantastic in the moment as he shows Lewis looking over the dead man as though it's an achievement of his although with that Reynold artfully brings a glint of sadness as the weight of what he has done seems to slowly dwell him. He never lets the others see exactly, but Reynolds does show that the killing was not just a game for Lewis.

After they leave something happens which causes one of the men to fall into the river to his death and in the ensuing accident Lewis suffers a serious wound. This kinda puts Reynolds out of commission for the rest of the film although he does create the pain of the wound rather effectively and has two good moments, one were he eggs on Ed to take action the other when he later purposefully act oblivious to what exactly happened on the river towards the authorities. This leaves Voight to wholly take over as the lead starting with the point where the men decide one of them has to take down the other mountain man who they believe shot at them from the hills above. Voight is excellent in the scene of climbing the mountain especially in a brief moving moment where Ed glances at a photo of his family on his way up. After resting the night morning comes and Ed is awoken to apparently the man at a distance. Voight is outstanding in this scene as Ed readies his bow. Voight brings the intensity of the moment as he expresses the gravity of the situation as he suggests in his nervousness as Ed is well aware he is about to take a life. When the moment happens Voight is equally excellent in creating the aftermath first the immediate physical pain from falling his own arrow, then the powerful sorrow as Ed examines the dead man. Voight's final scenes are quite striking as he very much earns the transformation in Ed. This is not a transformation to a hard man so to speak, but rather a somewhat broken man haunted by his experience which will never leave him the same. The ease in his manner disappears and Voight is rather affecting in silently conveying what the events of the trip have done to him. Voight and Reynolds, who I do feel is lead due to his importance for the first two thirds, both give strong performances that vividly create the two intriguing personalities of Ed and Lewis and give rather remarkable depictions of how their "adventure" changes each man. 

17 comments:

Michael McCarthy said...

Speaking of category dispute Louis, are you gonna end up placing Marlon Brando in lead or supporting for The Godfather? Because I seem to switch on him every time I see it and I could easily see him in either.

Anonymous said...

What are everybody's thoughts on The Normal Heart and its cast? I really liked it and it was very well acted, particularly by Matt Bomer who was amazing and heartbreaking.

Louis Morgan said...

Michael:

I will put him in lead, although he certainly is borderline. I would argue lead, despite his screen time, because whenever he is onscreen the film focuses squarely on him.

John Smith said...

Why did you not give him a 5 by the way, i mean for Brando in The Godfather.

luke higham said...

John Smith: He actually gave Brando a 5, when the review was first posted, but I imagine, he went down to a 4.5, with a change in his rating criteria.

Anonymous said...

Could you give your thoughts about Bergman's regular actresses like Ullmann, the Anderssons, Thulin, Lindblom and their performances you have seen?

luke higham said...

Louis: Ratings for all apart from Thulin in The Silence and Ullmann & Andersson in Persona, since you've given them 5s already.

Scott Gingold said...

Louis, please put Pacino as lead in The Godfather.

luke higham said...

Scott Gingold: I think Louis knows full well, that he's the main lead of the film.

Anonymous said...

Louis, you NEED to see Autumn Sonata. Amazing performances from Ullmann and especially Ingrid Bergman. That final close-up of Ingrid is so amazing... It seems like her goodbye to cinema, it's just beautiful.

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...

Anonymous:

The Normal Heart (I thought it was a rather effective film, if rather brutal and depressing, but rightly so. Its strengths lie in the emotional beats it hits, which it does with aplomb)

I'm a bit busy now to give any extended thoughts but I can give my ratings:

Ruffalo: 4.5
Kitsch: 3
Bomer: 5
Parsons: 3.5
Molina: 3
Roberts: 4 (what a pleasant surprise)

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...

Oh yes, and a 4 for Mantello

Anonymous said...

So glad for your 5 to Bomer! I really loved him and he portrayed his physical decay excellently. He was really affecting. I agree that Roberts was surprisingly great. I'd probably give just a 4 to Ruffalo who sometimes overdid his "gay mannerisms" but he was pretty great overall. Also agree on Parsons who, while not amazing, gave a nice, understated performance and I'd probably give a little lower to Mantello who was great in his big scene but nothing too impressive otherwise.

Michael McCarthy said...

I'll admit that part of the reason I was kind of hoping Brando would be in supporting was because of the chance it might bump him up to a 5.

luke higham said...

Michael McCarthy: Well I'm very confident, that Walter Huston will be bumped up to a 5, when placed in Supporting for The Devil and Daniel Webster.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

Hey Louis, what do you think of Addams Family Values?

Louis Morgan said...

Anonymous:

I feel I need to see more of all of those actresses to have more concise thoughts about them.

Robert:

I find the whole summer camp sequence to be quite entertaining with Christina Ricci given many moments to shine in the role she seemed born to play. The evil nanny felt a bit standard though, and I feel all the Addams family within that plot are a bit wasted especially Raul Julia.