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 o... more »f 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« less
"If you really want to get the most out of viewing this picture, don't make the mistake many of these Amazon reviewers do, by either assuming the politics of Cimino et al or using your own pro- or anti-America agenda as a critical yardstick. Because really this film isn't proselytizing a particular viewpoint, unlike Cimino's disastrous followup HEAVEN'S GATE. And don't think of it solely as a war movie. Actually, it's a lot like GONE WITH THE WIND: an epic-scale look at life and society in a specific place and time in the past (in this case, 1968, ten years before the film was made), and how folks send off their high-spirited young men to a war that no one pays a great deal of mind to - and how that war shatters not only the young men but the world they left behind, forever. The wedding scene IS long and in lesser hands on either side of the camera would be a dead weight but Cimino and lensman (sorry) Vilmos Zsigmond frame it in reverent widescreen grandeur, and a once-in-a-lifetime cast nails every character nuance and conversational tic, so that the scene flows on and on, vibrant with life and perfectly evoking not only a rust-belt town but the fast-fading rust-belt values of the nation. Besides, with a cast like this movie's, working at the height of their powers with inspired material, you really don't want scenes to end. When the movie segues to Vietnam, the tone shifts to horror and finally surrealism. Many consider this portion of the movie horribly racist, but that's a safe, kneejerk-liberal reaction. These aren't Harvard freshmen, they're barely-educated steeltown kids being sent to a faroff jungle to kill VC, who get captured & tortured by the men they are trying to kill. For enlightened liberal pieties to inform the dialogue or the tone of these scenes would be criminally false. That's probably what makes this a great flick, however, that right-wingers can despise it for its obvious liberalism and the bleeding hearts can hate it for its reactionary jingoism. Ain't consensus wonderful? Check your own politics at the door before watching this (widescreen version only!) and savor four transcendent performances by DeNiro, Savage, Walken & Streep, plus the late John Cazale doing his patented sweaty-weasel turn as an added bonus."
A Flawed Masterpiece
Gary F. Taylor | Biloxi, MS USA | 10/26/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Cimino's THE DEER HUNTER is difficult to describe. The film opens with a long and complex sequence depicting events surrounding an elaborate wedding in a steel mill town--and then vaults several of that community's young men into a hellish vision of the Vietnam war, from which the survivors return so completely changed that they no longer fit into the community from which they originally came.
There are several critical issues with THE DEER HUNTER. When it was first released, audiences were very positive about the film--but they complained about the opening "home town" sequence, which they described as slow and over-long. The studio accordingly edited the sequence to half its original length--but when the edited version was shown, audiences were considerably less enthusiastic about the film in general and complained that it lacked impact, and the edited portion was restored. Audiences still complain about the opening sequence, seldom realizing that it provides the point of comparison that makes the remainder of the film so powerful--and in any case, this fact is something that can only be recognized by viewers in hindsight, a circumstance that does not help them weather the first portion of the movie when they actually see it. Many also complain that the plot is improbable. Once the three leads (Robert De Niro, John Savage, and Christopher Walken) reach Vietnam, they are unexpectedly reunited just in time to be captured and tortured together. In the film's most famous scene, the three are forced to play Russian roulette against each other--and although they escape, one is maimed (Savage) and the other (Walken) so emotionally traumatized that he vanishes into Vietnamese underworld, where he re-enacts the horror of his torture by playing Russian roulette as a gambling game.
But for all its glitchiness, THE DEER HUNTER is a remarkably intense, remarkably disturbing film--particularly when the discharged De Niro returns home only to find himself surrounded by old friends whose 'broads and beer' lives seem incredibly trivial in comparison to his own experience. He has changed; they have not; what has been lost cannot be recovered. But there can be a sort of redemption through an acceptance of the change that has been forced upon him--and by trying to bring others who have suffered to that same acceptance. Cimino's direction and overall vision is loose, to say the least, but he draws extraordinary performances from an extraordinary cast. De Niro gives what may be the most subtle performance of his entire career in this film. Christopher Walken's performance (he won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar) is justly famous, and although often overlooked, John Savage is every bit his equal; Meryl Streep is also memorable in one of her earliest big-screen roles. And bitter as the film is, it still speaks of honor, integrity, hope, and bonds of friendship and community that can never be broken. Deeply flawed--but a masterpiece nonetheless."
Neville Blender | Down Under | 07/28/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"We've seen alot of Veitnam war movies since Deer Hunter. Apocalypse Now, Full Metal Jacket, Oliver Stone's trilogy & various others. All have great moments,especially Kubrick's version,but Cimino's "Deer Hunter" is the Grand Daddy,in my opinion. De Niro's incredible acting is only equalled by Walken,Streep,Cazale & Savage. It's Streep's first film appearance & Cazale's last~(They were a couple at the time, Cazale died of cancer before the film's release)~. I have never taken the Academy Awards seriously since they awarded Jon Voigt & Jane Fonda oscars for "Coming Home"~(another Vietnam film)~ instead of De Niro & Streep for "Deer Hunter". Walken walked away with best supporting actor,& deservedly so. It is an incredibly powerful movie. The DVD,although a little dark looking,is great to watch. To be able to access any scene...I still marvel. This is a film you HAVE to see if you have any kind of love for the movies."
Among the best
Adam Dukovich | 04/12/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The Deer Hunter is definitely among the top three Vietnam films of all time, in my opinion... However, what makes all three great is that, in reality, none of them are about war...The Deer Hunter takes place mostly outside of Vietnam and doesn't dwell there for more than a third of the film. Rather, it is merely the focal point of the film. The movie is about friendship, courage, loyalty, and pathos. The movie features a wonderful ensemble of actors, including Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken, John Savage, John Cazale, Meryl Streep, and George Dzundza, just to name a few. The story is set in a small steel town in Pennsylvania, and De Niro and company are Russian-Americans and close friends. De Niro's character, Michael, is the leader. He is spontaneous and fun-loving, but also strict and methodical. When screw-up Stan (Cazale) forgets his boots, De Niro doesn't want to give him his extra pair. Walken portrays Nick as an intensely loyal friend, willing to risk death at Russian Roulette to escape on a plan conceived by Michael. Savage plays Steve, the married man who ends up losing his legs due to an injury in the war. The film investigates the lives of these three men, forever changed by Vietnam: one emotionally scarred, one physically scarred, one lost in a foreign land. I got choked up when Michael went to Vietnam to save Nick, but ends up playing one final game of Russian Roulette. That particular scene is the most affecting. See it and you'll understand.
In short, this film is a monumental examination of friendship, loyalty, and courage. It won the Best Picture Oscar in 1978, and will forever be a potent look at grief and sadness and joy and love. A must."
5 stars for the film, 2 stars for the DVD.
Beatle23 | Evanston, IL USA | 01/19/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"The film is great. Most of you know that so I'm not going to give you a redundant synopsis of the film. However, I was very disappointed with the DVD considering I've been waiting for years for a new special edition. That wait was for nothing.
Yes, the film looks and sounds great on the Legacy Series DVD. But let's be honest, many of us buy DVDs for the special features, and since this is part of the "Legacy Series," this should please, right? Wrong.
First, don't be fooled that this thing is 2 discs. I have no idea why it should be because the second disc only has 14 minutes of deleted scenes, the original theatrical trailer (2 minutes), and 8 screens of production notes. THAT'S IT. Why couldn't they place this on the first disc? To make it seem like there was more? Probably. No documentaries, interviews, making of featurettes, nothing. There is a decent commentary on the first disc, but on the whole the DVD package is disappointing considering the original non Legacy Series version of the Deer Hunter didn't offer much either in terms of special features.
Regardless, it's hard not to own this for your film collection. It is definitely the better of the two versions out there, but don't go in expecting a lot other than the film. Disappointing package on the whole for a film that deserves so much more."