The effects of the Vietnam war on a group of friends in Pennsylvania.
Michael (Robert De Niro), Steven (John Savage) and Nick (Christopher Walken) are three young factory workers from Pennsylvania who have enlisted in the US army to fight in Vietnam. Before, Steven gets married and the wedding party also serves as a farewell do for the boys. After they have been at war for some time, the three are captured and held as prisoners of war where they are all later forced to play Russian Roulette. Michael gets them out of that situation, but it looks like his efforts might have all been in vain as he is the only one who returns from the conflict the man he went as.
The Deer Hunter is a wonderful film that looks at the effects war can have on not only the soldiers, but their families and friends as well. It is a very hard-hitting and affecting film that you won’t forget for a long time after you’ve watched it, but it is also set apart from most other war films that have been made as it makes a very in-depth examination of all of the lives that war touches back home.
Of course, something like this only works provided there is a good, believable story acted out by very skilled actors. That seemed to be no problem whatsoever. De Niro was brilliant as always. He was the force that kept everybody together, and got the other two through their time in the Vietcong prison camp. It was obvious that Michael recognised his role was just to ensure everybody got through the difficult times as best he could, but this did mean a lot of responsibility weighed on his shoulders and cracks appeared. This all became very apparent whenever one of his other friends, Stan (John Cazale), started to kick off about something minor and Michael would lose it at him. I’ll just come straight out with it and say that De Niro was, once again, stellar.
Walken as Nick was equally as good. It takes one hell of an actor to match De Niro in roles such as this and he certainly met the standards set by Himself. Walken’s character went off the rails when he found himself all alone in the middle of Vietnam. When he lost his two friends and assumed never to see them again, it was like he lost huge parts of himself, and Walken used a very dead stare to show this emptiness. It was a very gritty part to play, but was done very well by Walken.
Meryl Streep played the love interest of both Nick and Michael. Whilst she was with Nick, and he had proposed to her just before setting off to Vietnam, her and Michael still had eyes for each other. Streep as Linda showed the strain taken by those waiting for loved ones to come home and the never-ending worrying that they might never come back. She proved from a point early on in her career that she was one of the greats with her role as Linda, and what everyone loves her.
The story is pretty bleak, but it is very realistic and it makes it clear why The Deer Hunter cleaned up at the 1978 Academy Awards. You don’t just win Best Picture for nothing, you know! The Deer Hunter stand testament to that.
All in all, The Deer Hunter is a fantastic film that the vast majority of audiences will enjoy and be moved by. At three hours long, it takes some watching, but trust me, every single second is worth it.