The Deer Hunter Movie Review
Apparently, with many of the movies I watch, I go in with normal expectations. I had been told it was very good, but slow. And three hours? I was ecstatic about watching it, but since I'd been told it was good, and that it is on the AFI Top 100, I decided to watch it. And... wow. Just wow. This movie was incredible times 10. There was (almost) no flaw in any facet of this movie, from the acting, the setting, and the cinematography.
In this review, I will most likely spoil this movie. If you have not seen this movie, which I suggest you do, you should click away.
The movie follows three lifelong friends, Nick, Michael, and Stephen, and their journeys through life leading up to their shipment to Vietnam to fight in the war. Just as Steven is married, their happy, small-town lives are soon shattered by the horrors of war, and their experiences haunt them as they return.
Ok, where to start? It's tough to talk about this movie, because everything is good, and it's hard to not just go on a rant about it, but I'll try.
I suppose I'll start with the flaws. This movie is over 3 hours long, and with any movie over three hours, there are gonna be some slow parts. Maybe not necessarily boring, just slow. With that, this movie does show it's length sparingly, keeping most of the movie pretty fast-paced. But, there are still those slow moments. This movie is so long that it feels as though it's separated into three movies (The Wedding Sequence, The Vietnam War, and The Return as I refer to them).
Other than that, everything is perfect. The directing and writing is marvelous. Every part of this movie feels so real that you could be one of the old people at the wedding, drinking and dancing with Robert De Niro and Christopher Walken. The opening wedding sequence is an excellent way to introduce all the characters. The main characters by way of their jobs, and the supporting characters by way of the main characters throughout planning this wedding. You're introduced to the type of person everyone is, their strengths, their weaknesses, their personalities, their flaws, that you barely notice, and it all loops back around. It makes you care for these men and women and makes you emotionally terrified for their ordeals in Vietnam. Everything is paced excellently, the story being good enough to like while simple enough to follow entirely, one man is having a wedding and these three men are going off to Vietnam. The wedding sequence is over, and the three men, Michael (De Niro), Nick (Walken), and Steven (John Savage), and some other friends go on one last deer hunting trip, an elegantly filmed sequence in a beautiful setting, acting as a brilliant bit of foreshadowing for the horrors of Vietnam that awaits them.
And then, Vietnam.
A smash cut right to Michael under attack by Vietnamese soldiers in a small village. No training montage, no travel, no nothing. It captures the fear of war that all war movies talk about but don't necessarily capture, being thrown right into the action. Right after Michael uses a flamethrower to take down an enemy (SUPER badass by the way), a group of soldiers is airdropped to his location. Miraculously, Nick and Steven are part of that group. But they have little time to catch up, as they are captured by outnumbering Vietnam forces.
And then, we get the scene. The famous Russian roulette scene. I suppose now is a good time to talk about the acting. The acting in this movie is outstanding, stupendous, incredible, whatever, it's impeccable. All the actors are so lifelike and real that you feel the fright of every snap of that hammer not hitting a bullet in that revolver, the real terror that one of these characters might die. This applies to every character, of course, John Savage is great, as is Walken, in typical Walken fashion, as well as Meryl Streep, who was especially great in this movie, but none compared to Robert De Niro. In this one scene alone, he displays every range of emotion possible, from sadness to madness, to bravery, and to almost complete lunacy, as he escapes from the clutches of the evil Vietnamese soldiers forcing him and his fellow soldiers to play this evil game. He displays epic heroism, getting Steven's wounded and crazy character to safety. This one hour chunk of the movie is one of the scariest depictions of war I have ever seen, despite being such an isolated event, really excellently written.
This has probably already gone on too long, so I'll try to go through this ending 1-hour chunk quickly, probably the best in the movie. The opening chunk of the movie, while amazing, was just that, an opening, an introduction. The second chunk was horrifyingly great, but this last chunk, in my opinion, is better. This last hour or so follows Michael, now a Vietnam veteran, returning back to his town, completely lost. He comes back initially and can't face his friends. Then he meets up with Linda, Meryl Streep's character, who apparently kept him going through the war. His relationship with her is sloppy, and her character is fleshed out more, Meryl Streep giving off incredible sadness. But, yet again, none are more impressive then De Niro. He has lost his sensibility and ability to act normal now, making you feel so bad for him, haunted by his experiences, not even able to look at his old friend's revolver.
So lost in life, he goes to see Steven, who is in a nursing home, missing both of his legs. Through his sad life, making us hurt to see such a fragile character in such a sad place. He finds out he is receiving money from Nick, who stayed in Vietnam, who went so crazy with PTSD. We see Nick's craziness consume him, as he has joined a club that bets on Russian roulette. He cannot even recognize Michael. As Michael and Nick play the deadly game, Nick finally realizes Michael. Then takes his turn, the gun shooting into his head. Seeing this character go in such a terrible way is emotionally taxing to a length that's hard to achieve in a movie.
And after all of this, the movie ends, after Nick's funeral, with a heartwarming, patriotic singing of "God Bless America."
There's nothing to wrap up with, other than this movie is near perfection. Every single character is written well, every bit of dialogue, every frame of film, every second of the movie is amazingly well done
I give this movie, a rare,