I was at my local library
last week, and I decided to check out the new DVD
section that my library had just added. I browsed through a bunch of bad comedy
titles of the 80s and some new stuff I had seen too recently that I didn't feel like watching again. Then a little red box caught my eye. It was The Deer Hunter
On that box, it had in big letters:
5 ACADEMY AWARDS
Naturally I was intrigued because it was such a big winner, yet I had never heard of it. I checked it out with my library card and went home. Yesterday, I decided to watch it. It started off, and the first thing I noticed was the quality. I thought to myself, "This film is amazingly dark and blurry for a DVD." I looked at the DVD box again. I read the back. Printed in tiny letters were:
1978 EMI FILMS, INC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Then my reaction became the opposite: "Hey, this is an amazingly CLEAR picture considering it was made back then."
Anyway, that didn't matter much. If a movie was good, then it was good...so I kept watching.
The movie starts off in a steel mill. I had no idea what the movie was about at all. The box didn't give much information, so when I saw a guy standing so close to the firepit, I thought it was going to be some murder/mystery movie. Anyhow, I was wrong because it then cut to the workers getting off their shifts and going home. It focused on five of the workers: Nick (Christopher Walken), Mike (Robert DeNiro), Steven (John Savage), John (George Dzundza), and Axel (Chuck Aspegren). They were apparently planning some sort of hunting trip, and then going to a local bar to have a good time. Since I watched this at home on my pathetic little TV and not a at a theatre, something must have gotten lost because I couldn't understand much of what was being said. Actually, the majority of what I heard was a lot of mumbling, and an occasional "fuck", "shit", and "asshole" randomly and casually inserted into the dialogue. After a while though, I got used to it...and I realized that this is how those people probably would talk in real life anyway.
Then the story advanced a bit, and the scene became a wedding. It was held in a beautiful church and things got a little bit more interesting. I straightened up. However, my enthusiasm did not last. The film got stuck in an endless dance scene, and I was there waiting for SOMETHING to happen. I thought to myself, "This film won five Academy Awards? It doesn't seem to be moving in any direction." I kept watching though, while reassuring myself that the director (Michael Cimino) must have known it was boring and was intentionally doing it to set some kind of event up. The dance scene kept on going and going. I went up to fix myself a snack. I made an extravagant sandwich. When I came back, they were still dancing.
It got to the point where I wanted to turn off the DVD player and go do something else, but then the scene changed. The men were loading up the car with shotguns and getting ready for the hunt. That put me back in my seat. "Now we'll see why this movie is called The Deer Hunter," I thought to myself. They had a short dialogue where Mike spills his philosophy about hunting.
"A deer has to be taken with one shot,"
he says to his Russian
American friend, Nick. Nick laughs and talks about his own preference...
"I like the trees."
On the road, they pull typical "guy" pranks, and then they get down to hunting. Mike sees a deer, and shoots it. He takes it out with one shot. At the end of the day, the group celebrates and drinks.
Cut to Vietnam. Bombing Run. A Viet Cong finds a group of villagers hiding in a small hatch and drops a grenade down. Mike, now a soldier, becomes enraged, and incinerates the Viet Cong with a flamethrower. Mike, Nick, and Steve get captured and put into cages. The scene that comes next is one of the most horrific and suspensful scenes ever in motion picture history. Behold Russian Roulette, a game so terrible it's scary just watching it.
I suggest that you find out what "Russian Roulette" is from the film, rather than read my description of it (or click to the hard link I provided). It's better if you don't know what is going, so that you will be more shocked when you find out. So skip the next section if you plan on watching the movie any time soon
Russian Roulette Basics
Six Chambers in a Revolver, One bullet. Spin the gun, and shoot yourself. If you live, give the gun to your friend and let him do the same. If you die, you lose.
The rest of the movie revolves around the tragedy of War and the effects on the lives of all the characters. This isn't a spoiler w/u, so to give away any more is criminal. All I can say is that I enjoyed the movie. While it is often slow, it provokes some deep thought for the serious moviegoer and is, in my opinion, rental worthy. Hopefully, this write up has sufficiently whetted your appetite and encouraged you to go watch it, if you haven't already.
Note: This movie was ranked 79th in the 100 Greatest American Films list released by the American Film Institute.