The Deer Hunter
Directed by Michael Cimino
Starring: Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken, Meryl Streep, John Cazale
“The Deer Hunter” might just be the most quintessentially masculine movie I’ve ever seen. While it could be classified as a war film, its sequences of combat are far less impacting than the character work done either side of that conflict; the film’s opening farewell party for the battle-bound men – chief of which is Robert De Niro’s Michael – tentatively setting up the nuances of character which heighten upon the guys’ return from duty. The film’s final hour recalls the most severe moments in William Wyler’s “The Best Years of Our Lives,” updated for a different generation, but with a similar impression of war as an unconquerable hyper-reality. One of the main criticisms of “The Deer Hunter” has been that it advocates America’s involvement in Vietnam, and that it depicts the Vietnamese soldiers as monsters. That second point may have some validity, but Cimino’s film primarily uses the horrors of war to chart the descension of man’s moral fibre, and with a distressing amount of visceral power, too. There’s perhaps an overuse of Russian Roulette to work suspense into its depiction of devolved humanity, a final scene involving the grisly game a somewhat melodramatic move, if instantly iconic in the annals of cinema.