The Deer Hunter is a genuine American
blue collar epic. At the same time anti-war, it celebrates America with astounding
clarity. Perhaps it is more difficult to understand the vision of The Deer Hunter
without having lived through the confused Vietnam year. For a Vietnam veteran, such as
myself, the resonance's of the film ring louder and truer, but I don't think it colors my
perception. Director Michael Cimino got everything right. The photography, the acting, all
mold to the literate script.
DeNiro and Walken playing for their
Cimino introduces his characters on the eve of their entry
into the Army and emphasizes the moment of change by choosing to have Steven marry before
the boys leave for Vietnam. Michael, Nick, and Steven are best friends and when
coincidence brings them together on the battlefield in Vietnam, their manhood is tested
like it never was meant to be. The scenes of Russian roulette played by the trio are
amongst the most harrowing images ever filmed. While there is no evidence that this game
was actually played by prisoners or afterwards in the back room gambling houses of Saigon,
it works magnificently as a metaphor for the confusion and hopelessness of war.
The acting is uniformly splendid. Robert DeNiro gives Michael a
strength forged in the Pennsylvania steel plant where he worked, while the wild
Christopher Walken brings reckless abandon and total confusion to Nick. These two alone
are worth the admission, but add Meryl Streep as the girl who loves both Nick and Michael
and performance laced with pain by John Savage and your getting a film bargain.
The DVD is presented widescreen 2.35 on a dual layer disc. Aside
from some brief moments in the beginning when it looks like excess enhancement was used in
the transfer, The Deer Hunter looks very good. This is certainly the best I have
seen it since its big screen life. Colors are vital and the delicacy of Vilmos Zsigmond's
photography is preserved and matched for feeling. A remix to 5:1 would have been nice, but
the 2 channel Dolby is still excellent. Crisp dialogue and the beautiful music by Stanley
Myers is at perfect level. This is a core film for any DVD collection.
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