Critics' Pick

Sorcerer (NR)

Suspense/Thriller 121 min. May 30, 2014
By Alan Scherstuhl
Not to fall into that macho Hemingway bit, but I have to ask: Could it be that the effort it takes to do something that's difficult often results in that thing being done better than if it had been easy? William Friedkin's jungle-location triumph/boondoggle Sorcerer trumps today's event filmmaking with every mud-puddle and pit-stain, with rain and sweat-streaked actors who don't look like they've just swanned from the trailer to the green screen. In the last hour, plug-uglies played by Roy Scheider, Bruno Cremer, Francisco Rabal, and Amidou drive trucks full of ready-to-blow unstable dynamite over South American mountains for story reasons that don't much matter; it's all terrified eyes boiling in stoic-faced men as mud-caked wheels skirt crumbling cliff sides, each shot like something Friedkin had to hack out of the rain forest. The celebrated centerpiece sequence involves heavy trucks trudging over a rickety wood-and-rope bridge as the heavens rage. A board giving way here has a calamitous urgency that the destruction of cities can't match in today's movies. Friedkin, a big talker, has said that the scene took three months and cost a million bucks. He might be exaggerating, but certainly some degree of obsessive hard work is key to its standing as one the most harrowing suspense sequences in all cinema. Watching it, squirming along with each inch gained, caught up in the brute physics of ropes and wind and tonnage, you know that at some level you are watching the result of work just as laborious, and almost as foolhardy, as what's being depicted.
William Friedkin Roy Scheider, Bruno Cremer, Francisco Rabal, Amidou, Ramon Bieri, Peter Capell, Karl John, Friedrich von Ledebur, Chico Martínez, Joe Spinell Georges Arnaud, Walon Green William Friedkin Universal/Paramount Pictures