Film Reviews, Short Review

The Deer Hunter (1978)


Widely regarded as one of the greatest war films of all time by people impressed by long running times and point-blank symbolism, The Deer Hunter is, in actuality, a potentially excellent drama obscured by its director’s baggy ambitions and weak narrative control. Cut away the film’s most famous scenes—yes, every single Russian roulette sequence—and eradicate almost all of its Vietnam-set middle stretch, rooted in the worst kind of Othering and fear-mongering that cinema is capable of, and you would have a much shorter and vastly improved film. Why? Because then it’s not a film that ends on the facile notion that “war is hell” (no shit Sherlock). It’s a film about the way war destroys communities, even those on the other side of the world from its battlegrounds. It’s a film about psychological terror, about trauma, and about surviving that trauma. That Michael Cimino somewhat struggles to really capture the sense of community that our protagonists originate from is counteracted by the brilliance of the actors who lead the film; De Niro, Streep, John Cazale (in his final role) were hardly likely to drop the ball on this one.


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