The Deer Hunter

1978, Movie, R, 183 mins

Review

DEER HUNTER, THE
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Director Michael Cimino's epic look at how the Vietnam War affected a small Pennsylvania steel community was a huge hit at the box office and garnered several awards, including a Best Picture Oscar. Though its emotional power is undeniable, the film has been justifiably criticized for its somewhat thoughtlessly slanted view of the war and its implicitly racist depiction of the Vietnamese.

Three hours long and neatly divided into three acts, the film follows a trio of close friends--Michael (Robert De Niro), Nick (Christopher Walken) and Steven (John Savage)--from the eve of their tour of duty in Vietnam to the resumption of their interrupted lives. Just before their departure, the steelworkers attend Steven's wedding to Angela (Rutanya Alda); later, Michael and Nick go deer hunting with friends Axel (Chuck Aspegren), Stan (John Cazale) and John (George Dzundza). After the hunt, the film rudely cuts to the heat of battle in Vietnam. Michael, Nick and Steven are all taken prisoner by the Viet Cong and are forced to play Russian roulette while their captors make bets on the outcome. When they finally return home, readjustment is difficult. Steven is embittered and disabled. Nick has chosen to remain in Vietnam and has been sending hundreds of dollars to Steven without explanation. Determined to bring his friend back, Michael returns to Vietnam just as Saigon is about to fall.

Brutally memorable, THE DEER HUNTER is an emotionally draining production that draws a vivid portrait of its characters and their milieu--and succeeds in showing the devastating effect of the war on their lives, as well as their brave attempts at renewal. Unfortunately, the film falters when it comes to the larger questions of America's involvement in Vietnam. leave a comment

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