More adapted from the source novel rather than the Henri-Georges Clouzot 1957 film THE WAGES OF FEAR, SORCERER takes the descent into hell.
Towards a literal and figurative tower of fire, 3 of the 4 main characters are given their due, each given time to show where they have come from and what has led them towards being on the outskirts of Hell. The 4th is more mysterious, acting as a Devil figure seemingly arriving on a plane, “lets say a week”, wanting to go not due to a desire to go home, or for money, but purely, as I see it a desire to go to the fire.
The Mobster is haunted by his crash that led to his exile from his life in New Jersey, the Banker is forced away from his Wife and lie of luxury in Paris due to a bad misdeed, the Terrorist due to an act of violence in Jerusalem for which he feels was for a correct cause. Each have been giving a chance of redemption, but only if they complete an impossible life threatening task.
Friedkin’s lets the action keep coming, never settling on the longevity of the journey (which is more what THE WAGES OF FEAR accomplished). The suspense of the nitroglycerin that each of them is carrying is forced at you, Friedkin putting his characters (and infamously his stars) in endangering situations towards their end.
The laughter of a death hits Schieder hard, we see the damage the journey has taken on him, the laughter acting as a taunt as he has escaped yet the Driver still has to complete. After the arrival to the Fire on foot, a collapse in front of the flames is interpreted as a reprieve.
Alas, danger catches up. Hell is never going to leave you. That is what Friedkin shows us at the end with the arrival of the gang members.
The score by Tangerine Dream is ethereal, reinforcing the supernatural. Rather than go for orchestral and bombastic, the electronic/synth soundtrack is other worldly, enforcing the disconnect of the protagonists.
The Devil dies after an act of defense, the Banker and Terrorist lose control after connecting as people, yet the Mobster is not seen to suffer despite showing compassion for another human. There is hope, however small, after the journey to Hell and back.