Winner of five Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director, The Deer Hunter
is simultaneously an audacious directorial conceit and one of the greatest films ever made about friendship and the personal impact of war. Like Apocalypse Now
, it's hardly a conventional battle film--the soldier's experience was handled with greater authenticity in Platoon
--but its depiction of war on an intimate scale packs a devastatingly dramatic punch. Director Michael Cimino may be manipulating our emotions with masterful skill, but he does it in a way that stirs the soul and pinches our collective nerves with graphic, high-intensity scenes of men under life-threatening duress. Although Russian-roulette gambling games were not a common occurrence during the Vietnam war, they're used here as a metaphor for the futility of the war itself. To the viewer, they become unforgettably intense rites of passage for the best friends--Pennsylvania steelworkers played by Robert De Niro, John Savage and Oscar winner Christopher Walken--who may survive or perish during their tour through a tropical landscape of hell. Back home, their loved ones must cope with the war's domestic impact, and in doing so they allow The Deer Hunter
to achieve a rare combination of epic storytelling and intimate, heart-rending drama.--Jeff Shannon, Amazon.com
Three friends from a Pennsylvanian steelworks, Michael (Robert De Niro), Steven (John Savage) and Nick (Christopher Walken), volunteer for service in Vietnam. Over the course of the war the trio are captured by the Vietcong and forced to play Russian Roulette for their captors' entertainment. Michael and Steven manage to escape, and the latter is shipped home, disabled and bitter. When Michael also returns, to a hero's welcome, he discovers that Nick has remained in Vietnam, sending money to Steven without any explanation. With Saigon about to fall at any moment, Michael decides to return to Vietnam to bring his friend back. Michael Cimino's epic drama won five Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director.