31 December 2010

The Deer Hunter (1978)

As the first entry on my 20 films off of the AFI 100 Years, 100 Movies, I chose 'The Deer Hunter'.  This has always been on my list of movies to see, but given its length its one I've always put off.  Clocking in at just under 3 hours, this is not a quick venture.

The running time is something I'd like to address first.  The first 50 minutes or so consist of a wedding scene.  Do I understand why the scene was there?  Yes.  It was meant to show the relationships of the characters prior to their departure for service in the Vietnam War.  However, they showed the relationships clearly in the first 20 minuets of the wedding scene, and the shorter hunting sequence, so we can cut about 30 minutes off the running time right there.

From here, we jump right to Vietnam.  This starts the ascent to one of the three peaks of the film.  One thing this film is known for was its depiction of Russian Roulette.  The first sequence has the stars of the film (De Niro, Walken, Savage) as prisoners of the North Vietnam forces where they are forced to play Russian Roulette. You can start to see at this point how the war changed the three friends.  Mike (De Niro) convinces Nick (Walken) to play each other, with three bullets in the gun.  They escape, but when they are being rescued by US forces, Steven (Savage) falls out, and De Niro goes after him.  Nick recovers in Saigon, thinking that his friends are dead, and you can see the huge toll this takes on him mentally.  The last we see of Nick for some time, he is running after disrupting a Russian Roulette game in a shady locale.  Mike yells after him, but Nick does not hear.

From here we return to the home of Mike, Nick and Steve.  Mike seems to be the most... 'normal' of the friends.  Steven is in a VA hospital, having lost his legs.  From a conversation with Steven, Mike learns that Nick is alive and in Saigon.  Mike travels to Saigon, on a mission to bring Nick home.  Mike finds Nick in the same gambling den, playing Russian Roulette, and strung out on heroin.  Nick has no idea who Mike is.  Mike fixes it so he plays Nick in a game of Russian Roulette.  As the game progresses, Nick finally realizes who he is playing.  With one last flash of recognition, Nick pulls the trigger, and the game ends.

The movie ends with Mike fulfilling his promise of bringing Nick home.

I know this was a bit rambling, but I could not review it with out some sort of recap.  I really enjoyed it.  Will I see it again?  Probably not.  Am I glad that I finally watched it?  Yes.

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