Sorcerer

Sorcerer ★★★★½

There's been enough time between drinks so to speak from when I originally watched The Wages of Fear, which has allowed me to watch Sorcerer with unhindered eyes, outside of remembering the base narrative, that could subconciously latch onto existing source material. It seems that the original novel is bonafide gold for immaculate filmmakers to create tense and suspenseful filmmaking of the highest calibre.

Sorcerer maintains the almost two part split narrative that gradually introduces our desperate characters who eventually taken on the suicidal mission of transporting nitroglycerine. What is changed is some character elements throughout, and most importantly, director William Friedkin's stylistic and thematic handling of the story. Much like Werner Herzog's Aguirre or Fitzcarraldo, the jungles of Sorcerer contain much of a nerve-wracking atmosphere in which it feels every rickety bridge, ancient tree and unknowingly deep mud swamp could lead to certain death. This threatening presence amplifies the already constant fear that everything could go wrong with the slightest of hitches. That bridge you see in the poster thumbnail for this film leads to some of the most teeth grinding moments I've seen in quite some time, and even goes into a more nightmarish territory right towards the end that I didn't quite expect. Even the titular truck, Sorcerer, seems to have wild staring eyes for headlights and harsh yellow teeth for an exposed grill, matching up with the grim carved face that opens alongside the title card at the start of the film. Sorcerer as well is not just the name of the truck, but an exemplification of the film's themes regarding fate that seems to bind all the occurrences and events of the film together; each man drawn along through this hellish quest as if it was always meant to be. There's also a social subtext sitting in with the film's main story of the reality of Latin American living; endless days of dire living and dictatorships, which mostly works as an unavoidable texture that heightens the film's atmosphere.

In addition to differences in style, music is brought in more notably than Henri-Georges Clouzot's version. Tangerine Dream's score is never too much of a hindrance fortunately, though one can't help but feel that the film's already stellar sound work that focuses heavily on sonic terror with the roaring of trucks and the suffocating elements of nature does the trick well enough on its own. Dialogue is kept mostly to a minimum as Friedkin lets much of the action do the talking, which feels just right, and the characters' backgrounds are explored well enough to understand their motivations. Each central performance takes the sheer craziness of the situation into their arms and makes the most of it with authenticity, ripping away the melodrama and leaving in the distress.

It would seem Sorcerer eventually found its way to becoming something of an unsung hero of 1970's cinema. A combination of bad timing, confused marketing and unwilling audiences led to its initial disaster, but it has since deservedly found its rightful place alongside other greats of the decade. Sure, I'd pick the original as the better of the two if I had to, but comparisons to 1954's The Wages of Fear, though inevitable, are almost unnecessary. It functions as its own beast of which its reins are clutched, steered and driven towards the extremes of situational agony. What could be forgetful wasted action, is instead elevated to something a notch beyond its genre counterparts thanks to passionate direction and a willingness to go the extra step beyond.

Hayden liked this review