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The Deer Hunter

The Deer Hunter

Another 3-hour movie down....and it's the last one. Thank God.

I've always assumed The Deer Hunter would be an overrated movie and that it would be a bloated mess that thought itself as more poignant than it really was. While some of it is true, I couldn't help but feel some depressed emotions by the time the friends raised a glass to their fallen brethren. The Deer Hunter isn't about Vietnam, we hardly spent time there. It's more concerned with the horrors of war and what it does to a human. For the most part, the film does it really well, on the other hand, a film like Born on the Fourth of July really digs into that subject matter.

The Deer Hunter feels messy. Each hour is more or less dedicated to BEFORE, DURING and AFTER the war. A solid hour to get us acquainted with these characters does feel a bit much. I appreciate the artistry in having the viewer pick up on a lot of social cues in the wedding scene without much dialogue, but this could have been a learner movie. Just because something is 3 hours long does not make it an "instant classic" or "important" by any means. I don't need to see the bride and groom walk around an altar with crowns above their heads. Small details like this taken out don't change the emotion you feel towards these characters at all, instead, it makes a 3-hour movie into something more or less 2:45 or 2:30.

Then we get to Vietnam and we are almost immediately POWs. Then the famous scene of the film happens and much to my surprise it was still pretty intense. It's hard to go into a movie you haven't seen, but know exactly how the next scene will play out. I couldn't get a grip on the PTSD that Walken's character feels because the Russian Roulette sequence is one and done. I felt like we could have spent a little more time with them captured, to show how they're mentally beaten down. Being thrown almost directly into the mess feels like a missed opportunity. With that in mind, I found it hard that Walken would re-live the Roulette scenes and that he would become famous for it. No skill is involved, it's pure luck and he somehow manages to do this for months and when DeNiro finally shows up it just so happens to be the end? I understand the emotional need and pull for this, but reality set in pretty quickly for me and I didn't buy it.

The third act has DeNiro try to put his life back together back home. He purposely drives past a welcome home party because he can't face his friends after the horrors of war. Too much too fast and he prefers a small and quiet re-entry to life. He strikes up an emotional bond to Meryl Streep, one that felt underutilized in the first two thirds. There is something in this film, a sense of loss, a sense of not being able to get back what once was...it feels genuine. We all have things in our lives that we would like to have back, it could be something as silly as our youth or a long lost friend. This film nails that aspect and the ending feels depressingly poignant.

The Deer Hunter is a messy film with spotlights of brilliance. I would put most of that mainly on the talent of the cast and the relatability of the content. I might have never fought in a war, but I know what loss feels like.