The Deer Hunter is a film of overwhelming magnitude and staggering directorial force. The first hour is magisterial, giving way to Hell, and then into rocky redemption. Director Michael Cimino was on another level here, while the screenplay (which was written by Deric Washburn from a story by Washburn, Cimino, Louis Garfinkle, and Quinn Redeker) is pointed, observant, ruthless, and heartfelt. The searing performances are beyond compare; everyone was electric, with Robert De Niro and Christopher Walken delivering some of their absolute finest work. John Savage is utterly heartbreaking, and the combined force of this movie galvanizes you while watching it; it’s the only film that I can remember my father saying “I can’t watch that one again.”
And I can see why. He introduced me to this movie at an young age (probably when I was 12 or 13) and the impact it made on me can never be fully explained. In fact, I have a distinct memory of my father renting the double VHS from Blockbuster, and then NOT watching it with me – I watched it alone in the basement! The final moments sting with a wounded authenticity that could never be replicated. It goes without saying but I’ll say it – John Cazale POWER. Look for super-young Meryl Streep doing very sensitive and delicate work. Vilmos Zsigmond’s inredible eye behind the camera was extraordinary on this motion picture; his cinematography career is worthy of intense study. Tough but vital, this is a piece of massive canvass filmmaking that challenges the viewer at nearly every turn. Unforgettable is hardly the word.