For what seems like years I’ve always heard The Deer Hunter mentioned in various articles and conversations which has stoked my curiosity to watch this film. Starring Robert DeNiro and Christopher Walken, this is a story of blue collar buddies who are leaving their cookie cutter lifestyles behind to enlist in the army and fight in the Vietnam War, as well as the grim aftermath of their tour of duty.
The film begins with the marriage of Steven (John Savage) and his pregnant girlfriend as Michael (DeNiro) and Nick (Walken) all celebrate with their friends one last time before leaving for Vietnam. The reception seems like it runs for an hour, and while I grew restless during this part I feel it was a necessary vehicle to establish the nature of the relationships between the men, as well as a love triangle involving Michael, Nick, and Nick’s girlfriend Linda, played by Meryl Streep. There is also an awkward encounter with a Vietnam veteran who appears completely detached and oblivious, foreshadowing what is to come. The friends go deer hunting one last time before leaving home, as Michael kills a deer with his trademark “one shot”.
Cutting straight to the Vietnam conflict, Michael, Steven, and Nick are captured by enemy forces and held in a brutal camp, forced to play Russian Roulette at the gambling pleasure of their captors. This was one of the most gripping scenes I have ever watched, and felt both sheer horror and complete excitement. To say anymore would spoil too much for any future first time viewers, so I’ll leave my plot summary at that.
I felt that this was a gruesome portrait of the Vietnam conflict and a tragic portrayal of how it affected U.S. troops. I’ve known a few veterans from this war and have witnessed what it has done first hand, so this film really hit home with me. The performances by Walken and DeNiro were nothing short of brilliant. Aside from the never ending wedding reception scene, I thought this was a masterpiece and I wholeheartedly recommend it as necessary viewing to all.
The survey says…4.5 stars out of 5