The Deer Hunter (1978)

I always thought Russian roulette was a card game???

In this Oscar-winning epic from director Michael Cimino, a group of working-class friends decides to enlist in the Army during the Vietnam War and finds it to be hellish chaos — not the noble venture they imagined. Before they left, Steven (John Savage) married his pregnant girlfriend — and Michael (Robert De Niro) and Nick (Christopher Walken) were in love with the same woman (Meryl Streep). But all three are different men upon their return.

Now let me just point this out that I thought I was going to like this film, cause it won Best Picture, and has got two of my favorite actors, but never did I think I would love it as much as I do.

The most praise goes to director Michael Cimino, who later became one of the worst in the world of cinema, he directs so well here. The film starts out as these guys are all together hanging out, having a good time, then it snaps right to the war zone, where people are being killed left and right. In many films, this kind of stuff has been done, and gone totally wrong, but here, it doesn’t seem wrong at all, it helps the film so much more than you would think. The early moments are perfect, as they show how real guys interact in a small-knit community, in a very realistic way, and then when it turns to the war zone it shows the true horrors of war, and how it can affect everyone involved.

I love how the screenplay was perfectly written to show everything just as it is. This is an anti-war film, that shows the real effects it can have on people after the war. These guys were all nice, happy, and optimistic, but when they get back, their all nuts, depressed, or just down-right delusional to the real world. It’s not so much true as it is heart-breaking to see how the aftermath of war really is. It gets very very violent, but it just realistically shows how the war zone was, and how these soldiers feel when they were out there. We are thrown into hell, and left without a map, therefore we are supposed to fend for ourselves, much like these soldiers had to do.

I was most attached to this film because its characters were pitch-perfect, almost everything about them makes you want to see them live on. Robert De Niro, in one of his most underrated performances, is perfect here as the tough as nails guy before the war, and almost even worse when he comes out. He plays it so perfectly, and you still sympathize with him. Christopher Walken, as always is perfect, and got an Oscar for this, which was totally deserved. There are so many scenes where he’s great, but there’s one scene where he’s asked what his name is, and he is so overcome with emotion, that he can’t even get the words out. A perfect scene, with a perfect actor there to deliver it. John Savage is good, and although I wish I saw more of him, I was still glad with what I saw. Poor John Cazale was on his last limb in this movie, but he’s great, and has a couple of great scenes, and it sucks that he died so early in his career, cause he could have done so much better. Meryl Streep doesn’t have that many lines, but you can always tell what her character is thinking, and by the end she gets better. All characters in one way or another, are effected by the war, and how their lives change was shown so greatly. I liked how from the get-go Cimino introduces us to these characters, and before he gets right to the action, we get to know, and love all these characters before their lives change, which I loved, cause even then, I was more effected. Everything comes together in a last act, and final image that will just have you shaking by just how truly effecting this film really is.

People will complain how its over 3 hours, but in all honesty, I wish it went longer. My only complaint was that they made the film too one-sided-point-of-view, and only showing how De Niro’s character saw everything. I wish we saw all three, but none the less, it was still great.

Consensus: The Deer Hunter deserved all the Oscars it got because of its heart-breaking, but true realities of life, and life after war, with great performances from the cast, stellar direction from Cimino, and ultimately one of the best stories about the war on Vietnam of all-time.

9.5/10=Full Pricee!!!!


  1. I didn’t like a lot of this film because I didn’t think the material could sustain the runtime. I didn’t get that sense of character and I found that the wedding scene ran on way to long. Even the war sequences felt laborious and drawn out. I think the same point could have been gotten at a lot fast.

    However, the last act of the film was really interesting, the post-war stuff finally drew me into these characters and I liked almost all those scenes. I wish the film was more of that, the war simply being the lead-in to everything that happens out of the war instead of being a good chunk of the middle of the film.

    • I see what your saying, but I thought differently when it comes to the material. The last act really is what brings the whole heart and essence of this film together, and that final shot, is just pitch-perfect.

  2. I wish it was longer too. When a film is this good, it doesn’t matter how long it is. Great write up and a truly magnificent film. You’ll like my Gimme 5 tomorrow, based on reading this. The performances here were dead-on as you mention and DeNiro doesn’t get remembered for this as he should. Very good spotlight on this one.

  3. For those who enjoyed the Russian roulette scenes in The Deer Hunter, if you haven’t seen it yet I can recommend “13 Tzameti.” 13 contestants instead of just 2.

  4. You followed up one of my least favourite films on the planet with one of my favourite of all time! (I can’t even read a review for I Know what you did last summer without getting steamed. I freaking loathe it). However, I love Deer Hunter. Beautifully filmed, exceptionally acted and I love the peek at their lives and relationships with one another before the war. It adds so much emotional impact to the films second half. Epic indeed. Good review!

    • This is just a great, and close to perfect film, that has you into the story so much. But I Know What You Did Last Summer totally sucked! I don’t blame you for hating that!

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