Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Deer Hunter. A

'The Deer Hunter' is not a war film. It takes a brief trip through the Vietnam, but for the most part it's an emotionally powerful journey that explores life before war and life after war and the way violence shatters the soul. It's not sentimental and it never takes a wrong step. It's a perfect movie, a great, great film. It starts out with a wedding, which signifies happiness and peace. Then the duties of life call, and Michael (played by Robert De Niro) and Nick (Christopher Walken) and Steve (John Savage) go off to fight in Vietnam. There really isn't any warfare during this middle segment of the film. Rather it depicts Michael, Nick, and Steve at a prison camp, where they're forced to play a horrifying game to entertain the Vietnamese. The game is called Russian roulette, and it involves chance and death. What you do is you take a single round in a revolver and then spin the cylinder. Then you put the gun to your head and shoot. There's a one in six chance of death. Michael and Steve eventually return home. Nick has been lost. And here the film becomes a remorseful study of the results of war. One of the great strengths of the film is the performances. Christopher Walken and Robert De Niro are at their absolute best, and Merryl Streep is perfect, too. There are also several other small roles that fit just right, like a perfect baseball glove. 'The Deer Hunter' is a long movie, just over three hours. It's told in three parts, each one more powerful than the last. And I want to make it clear that this is not a melodramatic movie. It never loses control of itself and always keeps its identity subtle and straightforward. One more thing: listen to the classical guitar theme by John Williams. It's one of the greatest (and saddest) in all of cinema and it fits the mood the movie perfectly. I haven't mentioned anything about what the title means. You'll have to see for yourself because it refers to some of the best scenes in the film that wouldn't be done justice by merely describing in words. Or maybe I'm just too lazy to do it right now.

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