It's too bad that this film has become better known for one disturbing scene of man-to-man sexual violence than as a whole film, because Deliverance is one of the best stories about men pushed to their physical and emotional limits ever put onscreen. The movie has great action, drama, and suspense in a fascinating backwoods setting that enhances all three. Moreover, its Heart of Darkness-like storyline engages big questions of civilization versus instinct and morality versus necessity. Deliverance is directed with tense precision by John Boorman from a strong screenplay by James Dickey, who had authored the popular book of the same title. Vilmos Zsigmond's cinematography is brilliant throughout. He beautifully captures the awe and power of the wilderness and expresses visually what the unfortunate canoeists come to learn: that nature, like the folks who inhabit it, can easily shift from serene to sinister. This was Burt Reynolds' breakthrough performance, and it's a showcase for his disarming charm and physical presence. Also impressive in their major film debuts are the two meeker members of the group, the ill-fated Ronny Cox and the nearly-as-ill-fated Ned Beatty. Jon Voight, then the only established star of the bunch, doesn't disappoint, and, through his subtly expressive face, we see how psychologically wounded the men are by their experience. But the real stars, arguably, are the hillbillies, who are frighteningly believable to say the least. Banjo-boy Billy Redden endured two hours of makeup for his cosmetic inbreeding, and while he may not be a household name, his is easily one of the 1970s' most memorable, if brief, cinematic appearances. Just be warned: you'll never listen to a banjo the same way again.