The Deer Hunter focuses on three steel mill workers from the small town of Clairton in Pennsylvania. Friends Michael “Mike” Vronsky (Robert De Niro), Nikanor “Nick” Chebotarevich (Christopher Walken), and Steven Pushkov (John Savage) spend their days working in the mill, nights drinking in the bar and weekends off deer-hunting. Having enlisted in the airborne infantry of Vietnam, this hard but simple life is to be abruptly and forever changed when they are captured and become prisoners of war. It focuses on the loss of innocence during the Vietnam War and the devastating effects it had on these three friends, the small industrial town where they lived and the people who knew them.
What I got most from this movie was a sense of realism, I say this in relation to the acting. Robert De Niro prepared for his role by socializing with actual steelworkers, Meryl Streep improvised many of her lines to give that more true feeling. Blanks where used in the Russian Roulette scenes to give that real feeling of tension. Everythng was shot on location no sound stages where used. Robert De Niro and John Savage performed their own stunts in the fall into the river, filming the 30ft drop 15 times in two days. The direction is fantastic with Actors and Crew using everything they could to drive that realistic feeling home. This is a heck of a long movie, three hours and some change but it hold firm and not many movies can actually do that! It isn’t not a movie about Vietnam nor is it anit war, it is about the toils of war and the effects it as on the human soul. The journey that the movie takes you on is that of character and for that reason the first act is stretched out before dramatically jumping pace.
Why did I chose this movie? I have never watched it before, such an iconic movie, so I put it on my list of 32 Things. Some of the most intense and strongest performances I have seen in a motion picture it is no doubt that this was a career making movie for the likes of Robert de Niro Christopher Walken and Meryl Streep. It does take a somewhat narrow view of the facts, and in many points racist and homophobic, but this furthers the feeling of the small town focused view of the Vietnam War channelled through individual men. It won Oscars for Best Sound, Best Film Editing, Best Picture, Best Director for Michael Cimino and Best Actor in a Supporting Role for Christopher Walken. The movie was also named by the American Film Institute as the 53rd greatest American film of all time