Sorcerer ★★★★

Sorcerer is like an old-style, matinee adventure flick, with all its light-hearted fun stripped away until all that remains is despair. This is a world where life is so cheap as to be worthless, or rather it is valued only by its ability to save a corporation money, by transporting volatile nitroglycerin across a precipitous mountain range and through a flooding jungle, in order to plug an oil well that is burning out of control. The jungle setting is apt, because William Friedkin gives us nature as inherently violent, with humans as the worst predators of all, raping the earth and killing one another over black gold and greenbacks. 

There’s not a sympathetic character amongst the main cast, and yet we’re drawn into their predicament on the strength of sheer tension and survival instinct. There’s nothing approaching sentimentality to soften the road here. The closest we get to this comes at the film’s end, and only then as a cruel irony, like the final twist of the knife. The main emotions on screen are anger and fear, and the only redeeming characteristic is a kind of backs-to-the-wall bravery, which is made up of one part hope and nine parts desperation. 

Sorcerer is simultaneously preposterous and remarkable. The action scenes are staggering, but how on earth were those trucks not blown sky high within twenty seconds of setting off? It’s the action that fuels the film’s tension, but it’s well supported by grim realism, and allusions to murky politics, corporate corruption and global terrorism - themes that haven’t aged a bit. In Friedkin’s vision, money makes the world go around, and violence sets it on fire. 

Best Films of the 1970s

Hutch liked these reviews