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Thursday, July 07, 2022

Hollywood Rewind | The Deer Hunter: A problematic, but powerful war drama

Over the years, despite being winning several awards, The Deer Hunter has received its share of brickbats. And I daresay, a few of it, deservedly.

Written by Anvita Singh | New Delhi |
October 5, 2020 6:52:08 am
hollywood rewindThe Deer Hunter featured Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken and Meryl Streep in pivotal roles. (Photo: EMI Films)

Three hours is a long time to be spending at the movies. At least now, when the world is so quick, adapting to changes swiftly. So many things could be packed within those hours. Pre-pandemic, you could have travelled from one city to another via road. However, those who have seen Michael Cimino-directed The Deer Hunter (1978) would not regret watching the film for over three hours.

The Academy Award-winning movie featured a power-packed cast including Robert De Niro, Meryl Streep, John Cazale, Christopher Walken among others. The Deer Hunter was an epic war drama whose central theme was the US-Vietnam war. While there were many good things about the movie, there were also some problem areas as well. But, to the plot first. The film was about three young men who were enrolled into the US army. They faced the brunt of the Viet Cong once they landed in the country. Somehow, all of them managed to escape, but not without damage. What happened once they returned to civilian life? What were the wounds they carried? And did all of them fair well at this game called life? These were some of the many questions raised by The Deer Hunter.

Over the years, despite winning several awards, the film has received its share of brickbats. And I daresay, a few of it, deservedly. My main issue with the movie was the way it portrayed the Vietnamese. Like they were THE bad guys, who were essentially mean in nature. That the blood that was poured during the Vietnam War belonged to only slain, good US soldiers. Another issue, which many critics had with the film, was its ‘Russian Roulette’ motif. There is no recorded proof of Russian roulette being used during the war. However, personally, I am okay with that kind of cinematic liberty, because in the end, it is being used to convey something bigger than itself.

The performances were so real that you forgot that they were just acting as working class men and women, trying to survive with whatever little of happiness that’s left. Meryl Streep did a wonderful job of the little screen time she had. As the companion and friend of both Nick (Christopher Walken) and Mike (Robert De Niro), she delivered a solid turn as the independent but emotional woman who is left behind as her lifelines played with gun and guts. Streep won an Oscar nomination for the first time for her portrayal of the beautiful Linda. Both Walken and De Niro were brilliant. While De Niro played the macho, brooding Mike who liked hunting a lot, Walken was lovely as the sentimental and sweet Nick. Their friendship was one of the major draws of the movie. The fact that Mike searched for a lost Nick and Nick depended so heavily on Mike to save him was at once heartbreaking and heartwarming. For those who have seen the film, do you remember the final Russian roulette scene? The noise in the background as Nick and Mike face each other in a battle of roulette. The tension, the love. The one who wins, survives; the one who loses, dies. That sequence was gut-wrenching.

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Hollywood Rewind: The Shining | Clueless | Ferris Bueller’s Day Off | Blue Velvet | Taxi Driver | The Lord of the Rings I | Zero Dark Thirty | The Godfather | Say Anything | Warm Bodies | Bright Star | Malcolm X | Stardust | Red Eye | Notting Hill | FargoThe Virgin Suicides | The Breakfast Club | Enchanted | Walk the Line | Blood Diamond | Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban | Mortal Kombat | Bridges of Madison County | Edward Scissorhands | Breakfast at Tiffany’s | She’s Gotta Have It | Ever After | The Devil Wears Prada | The Matrix | Creed | Mulan | Ratatouille | Shutter Island | Her | Dead Poets Society | Sleepless in Seattle | Waitress | Pride and Prejudice | The Dark Knight | Before Sunset | School of Rock | About a Boy | A Few Good Men | 50/50 | Begin Again | Brooklyn | Drive | Chocolat | Batman Begins | 10 Things I Hate About You | The Departed | Freedom Writers | Pretty Woman | Dan in Real Life | Jurassic Park | TangledMeet Joe Black | Monster’s Ball | Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind | You’ve Got Mail | Half Nelson | Fight Club | Doubt | American Psycho | Julie and Julia | Forrest Gump | The Silence of the Lambs | Finding Neverland | Roman Holiday| American History X | Tropic Thunder | Before Sunrise | Scent of a Woman | Finding Forrester | Sixteen Candles

Here’s a trivia about the movie. The Deer Hunter was one of the most expensive movies of its time. It cost the makers 15 million dollars and exceeded both its shoot schedule and budget by a good margin. However, no harm done because the film went on to become a big box office hit and minted 49 million dollars at the time. It was also nominated for nine Academy Awards.

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