, man of few films, helms this solemn drama about friendship, 'Nam, and a bit of one-ness with nature.
Michael (Robert De Niro
, already a top bill star by the late 70s) is our somewhat antisocial and weird protagonist, a great foil for his best buddy Nick (a fantastic, young Christopher Walken
), one of those bright personalities everyone loves & without whom Michael might have been a complete outcast. This doesn't stop him from wanting Nick's girl Linda
in lieu of any other opportunities presented by mousy Stan
, but none of that matters - not their Rolling-Rock
-swilling good times, not their rollicking hunting trips, not even Steven's
wedding coming up - because there's something bigger than all of that brewing on the other side of the world - the conflict in Vietnam - and they're about to be shipped out, and even if they manage to make it back alive they'll never be the same. The Deer Hunter
may be difficult to watch, at 3+ hours - I was clamoring for the editorial to be a bit tighter throughout, though the long lingering scenes do make feel a bit more like you're "there," whether you like it or not - but the themes at work definitely make it a film worth watching and taking time to think about. The score is straight out of some sentimental 70s made-for-TV movie (save those heightened moments up on the mountain), but I suppose its not a big problem.
Notable is the irony that Stephen & much of the town are or are descended from Russian immigrants, yet they are shipped overseas to try and stop the spread of communism from Russia, and the strained manner in which everyone tries to sing "God Bless America" at the end, despite (and/or perhaps because of?) the human cost for that nation they are feeling at that time. That along with some of the war horrors (who knew the Vietcong were such Russian roulette fans?) are enough to get your fiancée to swear she'll never let you enlist (again). It is an epic journey through the lives of many Americans at that time that I enjoyed as much as I suffered through. Bittersweet is the word.