“Jeremiah Johnson,” based on Vardis Fisher’s novel Mountain Man and a story, Crow Killer, by Raymond W. Thorp and Robert Bunker, is the sort of man of whom legends or sagas are made. Pic leans towards the latter as it meticulously, sans grandiloquence, lays out the life of a male dropout, circa 1825, who decides to live in the Rocky Mountains as a trapper.
Director Sydney Pollack has given a skilled, observant mounting as he carefully allows the man to grow in experience and knowhow.
Robert Redford, as Johnson, has a solid stamina, a fine feel for the speech of the time, giving an auto-didactic flair as he sometimes comments the actions. He begins to trade with the Indians and wins the esteem of a Crow nation chief to whom he gives a present, to find he must accept the chief’s daughter in return.
The film has its own force and beauty and the only carp might lie in its not always clear exegesis of the humanistic spirit and freedom most of its characters are striving for.