I remember the Vietnam War, but I did not have any friends or family involved in the conflict; consequently, it was not brought close to home for me, and my life was not affected by it at the time. So it was good for me to view The Deer Hunter which certainly showed clearly the madness and disorder which was the Vietnam War in the 60’s and its effect on those who served and those who waited at home.
In the film, three young steel workers from Pennsylvania enlisted together to fight in the Vietnam War. We know Michael, Nick and Steven as Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken and John Savage. The brutality of the war scenes had me keeping my head down for some of the script. When our three heroes were captured by the enemy, they were forced to play Russian Roulette with the gun aimed at their own heads. The three eventually escaped from the prison camp but become separated from one another. Each suffered injuries and mental scars from their experiences. Only Michael seemed to be able to cope with life after Vietnam.
Most movies do not include such excessive detail which I believe is the case with The Deer Hunter. As a result, the film lasted three hours. However, each drawn-out situation seemed necessary for the audience to grasp the full sense of the effects of war on individuals. Those at home did not escape the collateral damage done to loved ones during the hostilities which was touched upon in the film.
Both Michael and Nick are in love with Linda (Meryl Streep). Since Linda seems biased toward Nick, Michael keeps his feelings to himself. This scenario lends a bit of suspense to the movie and resolves itself in the end. My one criticism of Robert De Niro’s role as Michael is that his heroism and courage is played up alongside the weakness and instability of his soldier friends. His staunch behavior breaks down only once towards the end when he confronts the AWOL Nick in Saigon playing Russian Roulette for money with dire consequences.
The movie won five Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Christopher Walken). The entire cast brought brilliant performances to the screen which launched lifetime careers for many of them. Robert De Niro as Michael showed us a role model for any soldier in any modern war. Meryl Streep, my favorite actress, had a much larger part than I expected from a war film. In The Deer Hunter, she demonstrated the talent which eventually garnered her 16 Academy Award nominations, and two Oscars.
I recommend The Deer Hunter to everyone, regardless of whether or not you lived during the Vietnam War era. Viewing the movie gave me an understanding of war, of valor, of sacrifice and of the male need for courageous accomplishments.
Movie – The Deer Hunter (1978)