The Deer Hunter (1978)

The Deer Hunter won the Academy Award for Best Picture way back in 1978. The film is over three hours long and stars some of the greatest names in film history, Robert DeNiro, John Cazale, Christopher Walken and Meryl Streep. In the present day, when you look back at the all-star lineup, you’d be shocked to see their project didn’t win an award or ten. 

I sat down to watch The Deer Hunter for the first time over the holiday season. To be honest, I may not have watched this iconic film because the story and subject material didn’t bother me. Some may point out to that comment as to why I don’t give this film a high score but hear me with my other concerns. 

The biggest drawback for me had to be the pacing. I understand that there was a reason to build up every character, but my patience wore thin pretty quick. The wedding sequence, which occurred just days before their deployment to Vietnam, seemed to take up the movie’s first hour. I didn’t learn a lot from everyone, which came after the ceremony when they all go hunting and DeNiro’s character has a chance to showcase his particular set of skills. 

I haven’t watched all the movies based on Vietnam because the major of the films are and slow-paced. When our main characters arrive over in the swamplands, they are subjected to brutal torture, including playing Russian roulette all hours of the day. I don’t know how traumatizing it is to have to play that game, but being subjected to it by your enemy, probably can’t be put into words. 

DeNiro’s character Michael organizes an escape, but PTSD is the least of their problems when they return home. Nick (Walken) is still in Vietnam and has turned to underground Russian roulette games to make a living. Michael feels responsible for all this and makes the journey back only to be disappointed with his search. 

As I pointed out earlier, this movie’s pacing dragged and made this three-hour movie feel like a lifetime. By the time Michael made it back to Vietnam, I honestly didn’t care about the outcome. 

I don’t mind watching old movies and understand that certain stories were amazing upon release. The world is a different place and what I grew up with is not the same as those from decades before. In 1978, Vietnam was still a hot button issue, so films centred around the conflict were close to the heart for many. In 2020, I didn’t have the same feelings, which took away an element from this film. 

I can not stand behind the 8.1 ratings on IMDb or the 93% rating on RottenTomatoes. Maybe it’s because I haven’t fully come to appreciate old films and their storytelling, or subject material just isn’t for me, no matter who’s in the top billing. 5/10


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