One line review: A crushing look at the impact of the Vietnam War on a small group of friends.
Movie Title: The Deer Hunter
Actors: Robert De Niro, John Cazale, John Savage, Christopher Walken, Meryl Streep, George Dzundza, Chuck Aspegren, Shirley Stoler, Rutanya Alda, Pierre Segui
Director: Michael Cimino
Method of Viewing: DVD
Location of Viewing: Home
Viewing with: No one
Rotten Tomatoes: 91% – Its greatness is blunted by its length and one-sided point of view, but the film’s weaknesses are overpowered by Michael Cimino’s sympathetic direction and a series of heartbreaking performances from Robert De Niro, Meryl Streep, and Christopher Walken.
My rating: **** – A Legendary Movie, but with some flaws
My assessment (the first 101 words at least): I can’t help but feel that I’m completely incapable of properly appreciating this movie. I have never been in a real fight for my life, much less a war. I am reviewing a movie over 30 years old about a war that started nearly 50 years ago, it’s very difficult to relate. However, as I’ve allowed the movie to sink in, the images and the themes presented still ring with me. Despite my distance from the Vietnam War, this movie managed to capture a small slice of the pain it caused. Still, the message is dulled by the movie’s length.
Despite the large amount of praise this movie gets, the length will actually decide how frustrated you get. A more impatient movie goer like me really struggles through the first hour of the film, as we slowly learn about each character, and the peaceful world they live in. As much as I hate to admit it, the length for this scene is necessary. You can’t appreciate the changes in the characters, their friends, and their world unless you give equal time to before and after Vietnam.
I’ve read reviews complaining that this movie is too one sided, taking a hawkish view of the war with the soldiers being supported by patriotic friends. I didn’t have the historical knowledge to even pick up on this till I read those reviews after I saw the movie. The only thing I noticed was how odd it was that there was no one questioning the war, or calling Michael, the returning veteran, a baby-killer. Maybe those kind of things wouldn’t happen in a small town, again, I have no way to know.
I can’t make any real intelligent comment on any of the imagery and how it relates to the Vietnam War, but I can point at the Russian Roulette scenes. For some reason, the first Russian Roulette scene where Nick, Steve, and Mike all waited to die just didn’t have as much impact on me as it seemed to have on others. I don’t know if I’m just so far removed from that scenario that I can’t see it as real, or if I just didn’t associate with the characters strongly enough to worry about them. Either way, I felt much more impact when Nick began to play Russian Roulette simply for money. The image of a man who cared so little about his life, yet kept sending money back to his old friends confused me from a humanitarian perspective. For a man to be that completely broken just amazed me.
I suppose it could also be seen as representing how random, and unpredictable the death of soldiers was in the Vietnam War, where any man at any time could die. Still, that’s simply a guess based on nothing but history books.
I still feel completely inadequate to analyze this movie. I’m not even confident in my rating of 4 stars, because the movie didn’t have nearly as strong of an impact on me as it appears to have on other reviewers. However, I recognize powerful storytelling, even when the story is over my head. I actually don’t recommend watching this movie, unless you’re a real movie buff or are for some reason fascinated by the psychological impact of war.
The Princess Bride, Wayne’s World, Once Upon a Time in the West are all coming up (in some kind of order).