The Deer Hunter [Blu-Ray] Michael Cimino

The Deer Hunter [Blu-Ray] Michael Cimino
By 1978, the Vietnam War had been over for a few years and filmmakers were beginning to reassess how it was depicted. And that year, there were actually two movies nominated for Best Picture that showed a very different side of the war: Coming Home and The Deer Hunter. The Deer Hunter follows three steel workers from Pennsylvania – Michael (Robert De Niro), Nick (Christopher Walken) and Steven (John Savage) – as they head off to the Vietnam War. They end up being held in the same prisoner of war camp, where the sadistic guards make them play Russian Roulette, something that not surprisingly has some long-term impact on all three. None of them fully recover from their experiences, but while Michael and Steven make it back to the U.S., Nick stays in Vietnam, a shadow of his former self and dangerously obsessed with Russian Roulette. Michael goes back to Saigon to try to convince Nick to return to America, but it isn't to be and things end poorly. This is a film defined by the performances. Meryl Streep (as Nick's girlfriend Linda) is wonderfully understated in one of her first movie roles and De Niro is similarly restrained, striking just the right note of desperation. But the revelation is Walken, who hadn't yet become the quirky parody of himself he is today. His transformation from wide-eyed innocent to mentally scarred soldier remains impressive and is a performance he's never equalled – he rightly won an Oscar for it. Director Michael Cimino, on the other hand, peaked here. His next movie was Heaven's Gate and his career never recovered. The Deer Hunter isn't a perfect film by any means, although it did deserve that Best Picture Oscar, as it was the best movie of 1978. It's definitely longer than it needed to be, clocking in at over three hours because Cimino isn't a subtle director and repeats the same elements until there's absolutely no doubt about what point he's trying to communicate. Its alleged anti-war message isn't obvious, its portrayal of the Vietnamese is one-dimensional and its strangely patriotic ending is jarring considering what came before. Yet it's still an incredibly harrowing movie to watch and the initial Russian Roulette scenes still rank amongst the most powerful seen on the big screen. The movie does look good on Blu-Ray – better than it has before – and there are also a few extras, despite lacking an actual title menu. There are 15 minutes of inconsequential deleted scenes, plus the original theatrical trailer, but it's the commentary track with cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond and film journalist Bob Fisher that offers the main insights into the making of the film. (Universal)