Aidan Fealy’s review published on Letterboxd:
I was hesitant to have another viewing of this picture because of the place it holds in my life-in-film. And before I get more objective about 'Jeremiah Johnson', I'll try to articulate what it means to me as a fan of film and as a human being.
Years and years ago, I maybe heard a passing comment from my father about why Jeremiah Johnson's story resonates with him, and for what reasons the story was one he'd recommend. Since then, I've mostly forgotten what exactly he made note of, but the memory that remains is that the film stood out to him. This movie has lived in infamy amongst the movies roaming around in my brain for all these years because at one point, brief as it may have been, my dad lauded it for the itch it scratched. All those years ago 'Jeremiah Johnson' graduated from run-of-the-mill early-70's macho man film, and into a form of art whose message could not possibly be as impactful through any other medium. And now, it stands as a flick that endlessly reminds me of my dad, and I expect that to be the case for many years. Jeremiah’s intuitiveness and resourcefulness, his tact and wit, his savviness and ingenuity. Likewise, Jeremiah is a spitting image of my dad’s luck and happenstance, his ‘fake it til you make it’-ness, and his wholly ungrounded confidence in the unknown. You likely don’t know my father, but if you did you’d see that the character Robert Redford portrays is everything my pops aspires to be. All the way from his hand crafted wardrobe to the weight he places in fundamental survival skills. I don’t know what the general idea is about this film is, but to me it’s two hour’s worth of my dad’s alternate reality, and that’s enough for this to be utterly timeless.
From a more objective standpoint, what's compelling about 'Jeremiah Johnson' is how very real his aspirations are. Jeremiah wants freedom from the current state of affairs in the civilization he knows, and freedom is exactly what he gets. He enters the wilderness with little more than the shirt on his back, and despite the odds, is able to make a life for himself in the most unforgiving of climates. In this way Jeremiah's character arc strikes the same chord in my psyche that Alexander Supertramp's character does in 'Into The Wild'. These protagonists give EVERYTHING up in search of themselves.
The cinematography here is spectacular, much of which is thanks to the National Parks they were able to shoot in. The costuming is absolutely phenomenal, considering you could pause frame-by-frame and look for modern or misplaced items and you may not find it. The acting is average, although the eccentricity of Del Gue and Bear Claw outshining most of the rest. And finally, the overarching story here is really well craft as we get to see Jeremiah use the adversity of the mountainous climate and his relationship to its people, to develop his sense of the world and truly find his place in it. Sure there are some gratuitous close-ups of Robert Redford's dazzling blue eyes and manly figure, but can you blame them?.. the man is a hunk.
My first/only complaint about this movie is the futile efforts of montages to develop Jeremiah's character. I've never seen a segment of a movie provide so very little to the overall story being told. There are 3+ minute musical montages that show his development as a mountain man, but if they'd only pulled those 3+ minutes out of the movie, I have to believe the audience would've kept up with his growth just fine. I'm trying to convince myself that it was the state of filmmaking in the 70's that explain the mishaps, but I don't know that it can be reconciled.
The bottom line is, this movie adds up to a comfortably above-average flick. A couple simple edits and I expect this would be a national treasure, but the fact of the matter is there were some shortcomings. That being said, 'Jeremiah Johnson' sure is a great watch. Jeremiah's heartaches beautifully contrast his triumphs in a way that really do a wonderful service to the story. And for those who do watch it, you'll find it to be one of the most quotable movies you'll ever see, no joke.
Not many folks I can confidently recommend this to, but I'll jump at the opportunity when I have it. After all, Jeremiah's story is among the greatest story ever told, and it would be a shame for it to fall on deaf ears.