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VINE VOICEon 14 February 2004
'The Deer Hunter' is not a conventional war film. Rather, it's an exploration of the psychological effects of war on the individual. At over three hours long, some call this film epic, others horribly dull and depressing. Split into three acts, the first hour of the film follows the three main characters Mike, Nick and Steve (Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken and John Savage) in their home town of Clairton, a small, industrial town with a large contingent of Russian immigrants. The story begins with Steve's wedding, which doubles as a send-off party for the three men who have volunteered to fight in Vietnam, but with no real knowledge of what to expect. However, an uninvited guest at the wedding, a 'Green Beret' who has recently returned from Vietnam, hints at what they can expect... he is a man who has been psychologically destroyed, and his unusual behaviour is greeted at first with anger, then amusement, but no real comprehension. We also follow the men on a last deerhunting trip in the mountains, as the film builds up our understanding of each character. Indeed, the deer hunting segments serve as a powerful metaphor that underpins the rest of the movie. The peace and tranquility of the mountains are counterposed with the sound of choppers and gunfire in Vietnam. From the outset it is clear that Mike, who sees deerhunting as more than just mere sport, has a deeper understanding of what the war will do to them, as is somehow better placed to cope...
The second third of the movie throws us straight into the thick of battle, from the sleepy streets of a small Pennsylvanian town, to the brutality of the Vietnam War. Almost immediately, one of the most controversial scenes in movie history is upon us, the brilliant and shocking scene where American (and allied) POW's are forced to play Russian Roulette against each other by their Vietcong captors.... controversial not least because it portrays the VC in a particularly brutal light, and the Americans as victims. But this scene is where all three main actors are at their very best (Indeed, Christopher Walken would win an Oscar for his performance in 'The Deer Hunter'). It is here that Steve and Nick are psychologically broken, and where Mike (De Niro) has to save his friends from certain death.
The final third of the movie (which I won't go into much detail so as not to spoil the film) deals with the aftermath once the conflict (for these men atleast) is over, and (one way or another), they return home to find that life can never be the same again. It is here that the true emotional depth of the film is captured by Robert De Niro's amazing talent. It is difficult (if not impossible) not to be moved by his portrayal of Mike who finds it hard to cope with the mundane realities of a previous life that no longer has much meaning or comfort. Add to these performances some brilliant supporting roles, including Meryl Streep who, like De Niro, was nominated for an Oscar. Also, the now legendary score, including the famous theme 'Cavatina' by Stanley Myers (and performed by John Williams), adds poignancy to many scenes throughout the film.
'The Deer Hunter' won the Oscar for Best Picture, but is not without it's critics. The take-home message from this controversial film has been the source of many a debate, and has been criticised for being overtly patriotic, but I personally do not see it as such. I don't think that it either glorifies or belittles the role of the Americans in Vietnam, rather the film is more about the people than the politics, and who those people were... not trained soldiers or the hi-tech killing machines that we see today, but just Joe Public, steel-workers, shop-owners, bartenders who go deer hunting at the weekends... volunteers who didn't know what they were letting themselves in for.
Moving, brutal, and (ultimately) quite depressing, 'The Deer Hunter' stands head and shoulders above other films of the genre (like Apocalypse Now or Platoon) in that it uses far more subtle ways to portray the grim reality of life and war.
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on 14 February 2003
This film runs 'The Godfather' close for arguably the finest cast of any movie. The acting is second-to-none and boasts the combined talents of De Niro, Streep, Walken and Cazale. The early part of the movie is devoted to the relationships between the main characters and a marvellously joyous Russian Orthodox wedding scene that sets up the tragedy that befalls the three friends after their capture at the hands of the Viet-Cong. The changes both physical and mental as the men return from war and the effects on their loved ones is brilliantly portrayed. Russian roulette although arguably not historically correct is used as a metaphor for Walken's disregard for his own life and the hunting trip on De Niro's return only serves to highlight his own high regard for life.
It's one of those films that stays with you long after viewing and causes you to think deeply on the terrible effect war has on people and communities. Outstanding.
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on 5 June 2011
First off i've watched many many films in my short time here on earth. As i've studied film in college i have really began to see the beauty of filmmaking. The Deer Hunter for me is one of the best films i have ever seen and i believe ever will. The film first off introduces the audience to the relationship between 'the gang' of friends and we see intimate moments of friendship between them which comes back later to give some of the most brilliant moments ever in film history. Do not be fouled, this isn't a film based in Vietnam, the film shows only roughly 30 minutes for it's 3 1/2 film in Vietnam. I suggest you watch 'Apocalypse Now' if you are interested in that sort of film. This film is based entirely on the bond between the friends and the impact of Vietnam on them which changes them forever.
A glorious film by Michael Cimino and i suggest any one who is interested in watching a fantastic story and character development to watch this.

What a gift.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 12 September 2014
Let me state upfront that when "The Deer Hunter" (1978 production but wide release in early 1979; 183 min.) was first released, I was 18 years old, and the movie left a profound impression on me when I first saw it. I have seen bits and pieces of it here and there (usually by channel-surfing coincidence), but I hadn't seen the movie proper in several decades. There recently was a nice write-up in the Financial Times about this year being the movie's 35th anniversary (as to its wide release), and I told myself, I just have to see this movie again! My preference would've been to see it again in the theater, but that not being possible, I ordered the Blu-ray.

Couple of comments on what it was like to re-watch the movie after all these years: while I recalled quite a bit of the movie, I was struck by the many details that jumped out at me, such as the beautiful wedding scenes and subsequent reception scenes. Also struck by the beauty and grace of the young Meryl Streep (then in a relationship with cancer-stricken John Cazale, who passed away shortly after shooting this and never saw the completed movie). Also very impressed with the devastating performance from John Savage as the vulnerable Stevie, how did this not get noticed come Oscar time? Also when you look at the early/mid 70s steel town scenes, all I could think was "those were horrible times!". The now infamous Russian Roulette scenes remain as difficult to watch now as they were then, although I will say that it was a shock seeing them as an 18 yr. old. I did not expect to react to the movie as emotionally as I did, given that I knew exactly how it would play out. As it turned out, I found myself in tears on many occasions throughout the movie, and at the conclusion of it, I was a wreck, clear and simple.

Upon having watched the 3 hour movie, I'm sorry but I wasn't interested AT ALL in watching any of the bonus materials, which include "Deleted Scenes and Extended Scenes", "Feature Commentary with Cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond and Film Journalist Bob Fisher", the theatrical trailer, and strangely enough a feature called "100 Years at Universal: Academy Award Winners". Maybe I'll get to it one day, maybe not, but it is completely secondary to reliving the emotional rollercoaster that is "The Deer Hunter", a movie that resonated with me in 1979 and still does so now 35 years later in 2014. "The Deer Hunter" truly stands the test of time any way you look at it, and is a MUST-SEE movie, period.

"The Deer Hunter" cost (in today's dollars) $59 million to make, and went on to score (in today's dollars) $196 million at the box office. Can you imagine what it would cost to shoot a movie like that in today's Hollywood? And that's assuming it could even be made today.

A quick comment about the Blu-ray: this comes as a 2 disc package, with Disc 1 being the "regular" version and Disc 2 being the "wide screen" version. I started playing Disc 1 and immediately felt something was off. It wasn't until 5 minutes into the movie that I finally figured out what the 2nd disc was for. I immediately switched to the "wide screen" version and that was perfectly fine.
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on 9 October 2009
The Deer Hunter is a classic of 70's cinema. Hugely controversial in it's day due to it's depiction of the Vietnamese during the infamous Russian Roulette sequence; this is more a metaphor for the brutality of war, the violence and sudden death rather than an accurate depiction of the treatment of American POW's during the war - and highly effective and shocking it is. But The Deer Hunter isn't just about war, it's more about the impact war itself actually has on communities, how even those on the peripherals are affected and how lives, friendships are forever changed and devastated. And on that level, The Deer Hunter is one of the most important and powerful films of modern cinema. This film is over 30 years old now and over the years I seen in on various mediums: VHS, DVD - and now Blu Ray. Whilst films of a similar age will never match their more modern counterparts for picture quality; this is by far the best - absolutely the best - this film has ever looked on the home entertainment front. If you have it on the DVD, then it's certainly worthy of an upgrade to Blu Ray. A masterpiece to be sure, with brilliant performances from Christopher Walken, Meryl Streep and Robert De Niro at his peak. Beautifully packaged too in a book like case, with a detailed and informative booklet on the making of the film. In short, a must-have for fans and admirers of the film and those who enjoy genuinely classic cinema but have yet to discover this.
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on 18 October 2003
This film fully deserves the 5 oscars that it was given, and the five stars i have given it. It is a deeply moving tale of three friends from Pensylvannia that leave their homes to fight in Vietnam. The film isn't all action orientated, as you may expect with a film about the vietnam war, but it does have some very violent scenes. The now infamous Russian Roulette scene is extremely tense and will have you on the edge of your seat. The extras on Disc 2 are excelent. There is a 20 odd minute interview with director, Cimino and other interviews as well.
Critics say that this film is too slow moving, or some of the scenes are boring. But, i think that these scenes help portray a picture of REAL men fighting in a REAL war. I think that this film should be owned by all DVD owners who value a good film over simple action orientated tosh.
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on 8 April 2001
'The Deerhunter' had, for me, everything I had wanted from 'Apocalypse Now.' It was moving and sad, and at the same time very frightening. The character of Nick, and the appalling images in the final game of Russian Roulette, said everything that Brando's shambling portrayal of Kurtz did not. Robert De Niro, in one of his finest performances, gave us the horrors committed on the American Troops, as well as the horrors committed by them. 'The Deerhunter' is not only one of the finest American Vietnam films, it is one of the finest American films. And anyone who thinks that the final rendition of 'God Bless America' is a valediction really hasn't thought at all.
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One of the first american movies to deal with the vietnam war, The Deerhunter focuses on the effect of the war back home rather than dwell on the frontlines.Robert De Niro, John Savage and Christopher walken are three friends all set to go to war.the film begins by showing us a wedding where the characters are introduced and the relationships defined.this covers the first hour of the movie and Cimino's build up is deliberately slow and detailed to let us become familiar with and care for these characters.the movie then follows the men on a hunting trip in the mountains before the leave(the hunting seems almost like a stay of execution)before we are taken to the savagery of the battlefield.the most memorable and shocking scenes occur when the friends are captured and forced to play each other in russian roulette.these scenes have a raw power rarely seen in many movies with all the leads excelling.Walken in particular(an oscar-winning performance)is outstanding,his uniquely twitchy,nervous persona has never been so astutely utilised.
the aftermath of the war shows De Niro finding it impossible to adjust to life back home alienating his friends Meryl Streep(excellent, as ever)and John Cazale.Savage is without his legs in a veteran's hospital and Walken roams the vietnam streets playing russian roulette for money,a ghost searching for his deliverance. When that final curtain comes it is an incredibly powerful blow that will leave the viewer reeling.Gripping and powerful, The deerhunter is a perfect companion piece to Apocalypse Now and Platoon.It may be heartbreaking and gruelling but it is ultimately rewarding.
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on 22 September 2006
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." ~
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on 12 February 2011
DVD of this iconic film about the Vietnam war and how it scars the lives of the main protagonists. The acting is superb, particularly Robert de Niro and Meryl Streep. The famous scene of the Russian Roulette forced on the prisoners of war by the VietCong is probably one of the most harrowing in movie history. The detailed study of the lives of the men before they go off to war, getting married, going hunting and working in the Pennsylvania steel works is important in terms that you really do care what happens to these guys once they go to war. A real Hollywood classic.
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