Film Review: The Deer Hunter

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Michael Cimino’s most acclaimed work is set for a re-release at the British box office this month, adding to the reasons why this US film-maker seems to be the most revisited director right now.

Of Cimino’s other flicks, we had Thunderbolt and Lightfoot making its Blu-ray début back in June, and before that, Heaven’s Gate, another of the artist’s highly revered efforts, returning to cinemas for some much-needed reappraising. In comparison to these, The Deer Hunter, which arrived back on the big screen on Friday 1st August, is unarguably far superior, and with that in mind the decision to resurrect the reels (or, more accurately, show off a glorious new print) offers people a great opportunity to take a look, revisit and get acquainted with the story in the setting it was originally intended to be shown, i.e. in the dark.

If you’ve never had the pleasure then we implore you to take advantage of the chance. A conflict film in more than one way, the crux of the film is an examination of the way the Vietnam War impacted on the lives of those both directly and indirectly involved in the fighting. Our focus is a group of friends who made it out of the jungle alive, but didn’t quite get to walk away without some significant emotional, physical and mental scarring. In addition, their friends, loved ones and spouses are also given plenty of attention, adding to the idea that the problems brought home do not only affect the people who brought them, but everyone around them, too.

So on the one hand there’s the remembered fighting, with flashbacks to the nightmarish battles in south east Asia interspersed with present-day footage (or what would have been present-day footage when The Deer Hunter was first unveiled in 1978). On the other, we find ourselves being drawn deeper into the personal conflicts that each of the characters has been left to struggle with, following the final withdrawal of troops from Vietnam – a huge national embarrassment that the United States has arguably still not come to terms with, almost 50 years on. Needless to say then, it’s not what you’d call easy viewing, but nevertheless has deservingly cemented a place for itself in the pantheon of cinematic legends. With Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken, John Cazale and Meryl Streep more than ably adding to its merits, consider this one not to be missed (again).