An arresting exercise in visual filmmaking and a tautly told suspenser about men out of their depths in the Louisiana swamps, Southern Comfort is hardly a cinematic equivalent of the libation of the same name. It’s an elemental drama of survival in a threatening environment, and the traditional themes of group camaraderie and mutual support are turned inside out.
Set in 1973, tale presents nine National Guard members, weekend soldiers, heading out into the bayou for practice maneuvers. They make the mistake of appropriating some canoes belonging to local Cajuns, and when the densest of the group commits the lunacy of firing (blanks) at some native pursuers the ill-prepared unit finds itself in a virtual state of war with forbidding area’s inhabitants.
Pic is most exciting as a visual experience, as Walter Hill once again proves himself a consummate filmmaker with a great talent for mood, composition and action choreography. Also outstanding is Ry Cooder’s unusual score, which makes use of spare, offbeat instrumentation as well as some authentic Cajun music. Acting-wise, this is an ensemble piece, and all hands contribute strongly.