Michael (Robert De Niro), Steven (John Savage) and Nick (Christopher Walken) are friends from a small industrial town in Pennsylvania who after Steven's wedding head over to Vietnam to fight. Whilst they end up separated they end up together when they are captured by the Vietcong, kept in cages in the water where the rats are whilst forced to play Russian roulette against each other. Whilst thanks to Michael they manage to escape they end up separated. After the war Michael returns to Vietnam where he discovers what effect playing Russian roulette had on Nick whilst Steven ended up in a hospital.
I've mentioned this before but I believe there are some movies which are held in such high esteem that some people go along with the general view because they don't want to look bad disagreeing. One of those movies is "The Deer Hunter" as whilst it is an impressive production, there is no denying that, it is not an entertaining movie and in fact is one of the most laborious movies I have come across with a three hour running length which to be frank feels twice as long.
Now part of the trouble is that "The Deer Hunter" isn't about the Vietnam War but about these friends and how war affects them with much of the movie focussing on Michael. But before we get to the war we get an hour long build up of these friends at Steven's wedding then going hunting up in the hills. This is meant to establish the characters and we do see how Nick's girlfriend Linda (Meryl Streep) is hit by her drunk father but to say it establishes the characters is a push and goes on and on.
Then we get the war part, an hour of disjointed scenes as we go from Steven and Nick discovering Michael going all Rambo to them captured and forced to play Russian roulette which other than "Cavatina", the beautiful music by John Williams, is the most memorable thing about the movie. And then we get the aftermath but like everything else about "The Deer Hunter" it is simply disjointed and over long.
As I said "The Deer Hunter" is an impressive production but it is slow painful work which is just hard work from start to finish. Part of what makes it impressive is the sheer calibre of the cast and every single actor seems committed to their performance, throwing themselves into their roles and giving their characters an element of edge.
What this all boils down to is that as a production "The Deer Hunter" is impressive with an impressive cast and impressive scenes. But as a movie I find "The Deer Hunter" over long and painfully laborious which if it wasn't for its star power would be unwatchable.