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#79 - The Deer Hunter

Vietnam was the theme of many movies in the '70s-'80s and several of them are represented on this list, including this entry from 1978. Directed and co-written by Michael Cimino, it focuses on the lives of three blue collar men (Robert DeNiro, Christopher Walken, John Cazale) in three acts -- before, during and after the war. Meryl Streep costars.

Chalk up another movie we're glad we watched but will likely never see again. Much like the world event that provides its backdrop, this movie is brutal. Vietnam destroyed men's lives in many ways -- and this movie shows the less obvious, more insidious ways.

It is not so much focused on Vietnam as it uses it as a frame for a character study of these three men. It spends a long, long time showing them in their native environs (steel town in the mountains of Pennsylvania) before it cuts suddenly to the war scenes. And they are not even the center point of the movie, as fairly soon we move back to Pennsylvania and start picking up the pieces afterward.

Thus, in its established format as a character study, the movie is extremely well done. I can draw parallels to my last review in that the time spent developing these characters pays off in spades -- this time, it's as we are torn apart watching them be torn apart by the horrors of war. Though the men are no great citizens, they are sympathetic characters and none deserve what they suffer.

I expected parts of the movie to be difficult to watch, and I was right, but not in the way I thought it would. I expected violence and bloodshed, as they are hallmarks of most war movies I have seen. There wasn't much of those, but there were intensely uncomfortable scenes for other reasons, both straightforward (Russian roulette) and more complex (some of the scenes involving DeNiro's character as he comes back to a town that hasn't changed but he has changed so much). The entire film works to great emotional effect.

The acting is great, naturally. DeNiro is almost a caricature of himself now, but he's very affecting in his role. The score is well fitted and very memorable. Things like cinematography didn't really stand out in this one, surprisingly, but you can't win 'em all, I guess.

Another movie that is obviously a touchstone for a generation, so it's good we've covered it. But I'm glad to move on. Two Vietnam movies down, one to go. Nice to have a break for a while.

(See this post if you're confused why I'm reviewing movies.)


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