Three friends enlist to fight in Vietnam and are forever damaged
by their brief but horrifying time in a game of Russian Roulette.
The Deer Hunter (1978)
Directed by Michael Cimino
Written by Deric Washburn
Starring Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken,
Meryl Streep, John Cazale, John Savage,
Chuck Aspegren, George Dzundza, Rutanya Alda
Oscar Wins - Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (Christopher Walken), Best Director, Best Sound Mixing, Best Film Editing
Oscar Nominations - Best Actor (Robert De Niro),
Best Supporting Actress (Meryl Streep),
Best Original Screenplay, Best Cinematography
The Deer Hunter is a complex film that shows how the Vietnam War affected all sorts of people, from the soldiers on the front lines to the families waiting at home. It uses the Vietnam War to paint a poignant anti-war message that still resonates to this day, thanks to the career-defining performances of its principle actors. As intense at it is brilliant, The Deer Hunter has earned its rightful place as one of the most influential films ever made about the Vietnam War. The story is told in three parts, before the war, the war itself, and the return home. In all three, the filmmakers develop characters with real human flaws, people who aren't immune from the horrors of war.
Robert De Niro stars as Michael, a charismatic hunter who joins up with his best friends Nick (Christopher Walken) and Steven (John Savage). Before long, the three are captured by enemy soldiers and forced to put a gun to their own heads and play Russian Roulette. For those of you who don't know, Russian Roulette is a sadistic game where all but one bullet is removed from a revolver and the chamber is spun. The players fire the gun at themselves until one of them is dead. These scenes are by far the most intense, with De Niro and Walken giving it their absolute all while Vietnamese soldiers slap them and demand they fire. Walken deservedly won an Oscar for his performance and De Niro earned another nomination for his fantastic performance.
When the soldiers return home, they're never the same again, with De Niro managing to completely change the way his character carries himself. His dedication to bring his buddy Nick back from the brink of insanity is heartbreaking and helps cement The Deer Hunter as one of the definitive Vietnam War films. This film doesn't glorify war, it condemns it. It shows what happens to soldiers who are forced to face the barrel of a loaded gun. The Deer Hunter is remarkably realistic in this respect and remains a moving piece of American cinema.