Michael (Robert De Niro), Steven (John Savage), and Nick (Christopher Walken) are lifelong friends that all work in a factory together during America's war with Vietnam. They are all three very close to one another, and decide to go and fight in the war. But just before they leave Steven marries and a big farwell party is held for them, and the friends go on one final deer hunting trip together. But once at war Michael and the gang are captured and forced to play Russian Roulette. Michael and Nick come up with a plan so that they can escape, and it works. But afterwards the three get separated again, and find that their lives are going to take a very quick turn downhill.
Before recently seeing this film for the first time, I had heard that the actual length hurt it a bit, and many did not find it to be quite the masterpiece that some do. So I prepared myself for what I was about to see, and watched the film. The Deer Hunter is in every possible way one of the greatest films I have ever seen. Yes, it is unusually long, and some will probably find it very boring, but the way the characters are developed is so brilliant that the film is entirely unforgettable. The Deer Hunter is no doubt a tear jerker, and is very hard to stomach at times, but I am recommending this film to anyone and everyone, whether you love movies or not. Every American alive needs to have seen this, maybe that is just me, but in my opinion it is that important.
The story is so unbelievably horrible in the sense of the true horrors that it captures, but is stunningly perfect in the same way. Across the world America is quite well known for its power as far as war goes, and I think every American can speak for the terror the country went through during the war with Vietnam. Obviously some will not be able to appreciate The Deer Hunter as others will, and that is partly because most younger people that didn't live during the war will not be able to fully understand the film as well as the people who actually fought in it, or knew people who did. I am definitely not old enough to have lived during that time, but Vietnam affected my family way more than any other war, and I hear plenty of stories on any regular day. Not to mention that I am particularly interested in American history. I would not say that The Deer Hunter is a war film, but more of a film about the lives of the people in war, and how they affected the lives around them. The beginning character developement is about as impressive as it gets. It may take awhile, but the audience learns about the three main characters, their friends, and even their hunting trips. The characters are young and easy to relate to, and many viewers will find them all very likeable. Depending on how you look at the film this could be both a good, or bad thing. Just any regular movie watcher will probably find this film depressing and too sad to watch a second time, which is exactly why every American should see it. Yes, it is very sad, but Vietnam was a sad war and one of the lower points in American history. Younger people nowadays need to understand about this war, and I know they want a happy movie but I hate it, Vietnam just was not a happy time for anyone. The Deer Hunter is a tragic film, but in the way that it shows that it is a tragedy is how the film succeeds.
The Deer Hunter has one of the finer casts of any film I have ever seen. Robert De Niro is my personal favorite actor, and I can honestly say his performance here challenged what I thought was easily his best in The Godfather Part II. If not his career performance, I would take his work here over any of his other films, even one of his most acclaimed in Taxi Driver. De Niro's performance was about as tragic and hard to handle as the actual film was. His acting ability continues to amaze me everytime I watch him on screen, and tears may come to your eyes watching him here. His performance is brilliant in every sense of the word, do not miss it. Meryl Streep, my favorite actress of all time, was fantastic as well. I honestly do not think she could act badly if she tried. This is one of her finest performances. Christopher Walken, now he was the biggest surprise. I always knew he was a great actor, but in The Deer Hunter he gives what I think is his career performance. His job during the games of Russian Roulette were the most impressive parts I think. John Savage was great as well, along with all the other supporting actors.
Michael Cimino is not too impressive of a director in my opinion, but in filming The Deer Hunter he has struck gold. His direction is so perfect. This film could have easily been boring, and probably should have been. Every scene in this film is needed, and every scene is pure perfection, all thanks to Cimino's job in the directing chair. Deric Washburn's screenplay is incredible as well. Everything about it really. All of the scenes were very well thought out and well written, plus a brilliant script. Cimino and Washburn knew what they had going here, and that was a masterpiece.
Overall, The Deer Hunter is about as close to perfection as a film can get. People may not like its length, or its message. But the fact of the matter is The Deer Hunter had a story to tell, and told it brillianly. The acting is some of the best you will ever see, along with Cimino's spotless direction, and Washburn's fantastic writing. This is easily a top 10 film for me, and could even be higher. The Deer Hunter truly is a magnificent film.