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The Deer Hunter (1978)

Cast: Robert De Niro, Robert De Niro, John Cazale, more...
Director: Michael Cimino, Michael Cimino
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Studio: Universal Studios
Genre: Drama, War, Vietnam War
Running Time: 183 min.
Languages: English
Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
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This title is currently out of print.

One of several 1978 films dealing with the Vietnam War (including Hal Ashby's Oscar-winning Coming Home), Michael Cimino's epic second feature The Deer Hunter was both renowned for its tough portrayal of the war's effect on American working class steel workers and notorious for its ahistorical use of Russian roulette in the Vietnam sequences. Structured in five sections contrasting home and war, the film opens in Clairton, PA, as Mike (Robert De Niro), Nick (Christopher Walken), and Stan (John Cazale, in his last film) celebrate the wedding of their friend Steve (John Savage) and go on a final deer hunt before the men leave for Vietnam. Mike treats hunting as a test of skill, lecturing Stan about the value of "one shot" deer slaying and brushing off Nick's urgings to appreciate nature's beauty. As Mike ruminates post-hunt, the film cuts to the horror of Vietnam, where the men are captured by Vietcong soldiers who force Mike and Nick to play Russian roulette for the V.C.'s amusement. Mike turns the game to his advantage so they can escape captivity, but the men are permanently scarred by the episode. Steve loses his legs; Nick vanishes in the Saigon Russian roulette parlors. Mike returns alone to Clairton a changed man, as he rejects the killing of the deer hunt and finds solace with Nick's old girlfriend Linda (Meryl Streep). Disgusted by the antics of his male cohorts at home, Mike decides to bring Steve back from a veterans' hospital, and he returns to Saigon to find Nick. As Saigon falls, Mike discovers how far gone Nick is; the survivors gather in Clairton for a funeral breakfast, singing an impromptu rendition of "God Bless America." ~ Lucia Bozzola, All Movie Guide

GreenCine Member Reviews

Greek Tragedy by johnnyclock May 17, 2006 - 1:41 PM PDT
3 out of 3 members found this review helpful
This is a pitiful tale. It is a tale that marches forward with the inevitability and the ominous pace of Greek tragedy. And as in Greek tragedy, the audience knows from the start where we're headed. When this film was made in 1978, we already knew what had happened in Vietnam, and its result, and about the ignoble and ignominious withdrawal in confusion and haste at the end. So when the 'deer hunter' and his friends who are going to 'Nam with him are all gung ho and excited about getting into the 'war,' we can't help hearing the tolling of a fate that will prove larger than the lives of these individual men, no matter how heroic, how American, or how good-willed they may be.
This is a film that gets under the skin; it is a film that torments you long after the viewing; and its impression only grows in you as time passes. I have my little gripes about editing or continuity that I thought could have been clearer, but in a force this monumental these amount to no more than petty grievances, and I have set them aside.
The acting is without exception excellent; and Christopher Walken's character (for which he received an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor) will continue to haunt you for as long as you will remember this film.

GreenCine Member Rating

(Average 7.51)
371 Votes
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Auntie War
Best Picture Oscar Winners: 1970s
A great decade for film, with some of the runners-up to these winners also classics.

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