Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Movie Review: The Deer Hunter (1978)

Very controversial movie that garnered Best Film, Best Director and Best Supporting Actor, at the Oscars.
The Deer Hunter (1978) Poster 
The film shows the effects of the Vietnam War on a little community in a Pennsylvania industrial town. The lives of the men in this town revolve around working in the steel mills. Three of these men we meet decide to enlist in the army for the war in Vietnam. One of the guys is getting married so they decide to throw the leaving party at the same time. After the wedding they go deer hunting to celebrate their last days before enlisting. What we see is some grueling scenes in Vietnam. These men we get to know like friends are really thrown into Hell with this war. Poor Stevie the newly wed ends up in a wheelchair, Nick (Christopher Walken) survives the ordeal but becomes so traumatized by what he has experienced and as for Mike (Robert De Niro) he learns that been the macho man is not the best way to be.

There is some real horrible scenes in this film, we see American POW's forced to play Russian Roulette against themselves, literally gambling with their lives and mental sanity. As much as they are controversial, I feel there is, a real over reliance on these scenes. Yes its harrowing and unsettling and sets things up for how these guys change but to do the same thing twice.. its a bit over the top to be honest. That been said the hunting scenes do sort of counter balance it. Michael Cimino looks like he is using the hunting scenes as a contrast to the war. They both involve guns but, the hunting they are free men killing for "sport" where as in the war they are trapped men fighting for their lives. Its like they are the "Deer" for the Asians in their "game", of Russian Roulette. There is no wonder Mr Cimino won best Director for this film. 
The whole cast is great. Robert De Niro as the lead is just at the top of his game coming off the back of the excellent Taxi Driver, and straight into this film, showcases how much of a great actor he is. The way he goes from been the happy go lucky guy to having the world and his friends on his shoulders, you can see and feel his pain. Meryl Streep, in one of her first few roles, easily shows the signs of the great actress she would later become, I mean she went straight into Kramer Vs Kramer after this film. The pain she shows when she is in love with Nick, even tho Mike loves her. One point we see Meryl Streep having to hide her tears because things didn't go the way she wanted, so underplayed to perfection. Of course the real stand out and deservedly winning that best supporting actor award at the oscars, is Christopher Walken. Wow. That is one word that sums up his performance. Seeing this man break and literally lose his mind is just sheer power on that screen. Especially more so in the last few scenes of the film. 

The cinematography is great in this film. The stand out pieces of photography has to be the hunting scenes. The big vistas and beautiful lakes and forests just caught so beautifully and nature lookin so innocent. Then we have the Vietnam scenes caught so violently and looking the polar opposite of the innocence of nature, it captures instead brutality, wonderfully done. Even the wedding at the beginning is shot beautifully, the look and style of the church, once again drafted in to help show the brutality of war look dark compared to the light at the beginning of the film.

Having the film for the first hour start as an introduction to these characters is another masterstroke by Cimino. We have the wedding and the hunting, it makes us draw into the lives of these characters and care about them, more than we normally would, when we see them in the war. Nicely Done. The films real theme is of friendship with the personal impact of war and its effects on us. This film packs such a dramatic punch to it that it will probably stay with you forever. Fully deserving of its awards and praise.
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