Universal Pictures | Release Date: December 8, 1978
7.3
USER SCORE
Generally favorable reviews based on 155 Ratings
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Positive:
118
Mixed:
13
Negative:
24
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4
DaveC.Sep 24, 2005
Plodding, laborious and pretentious. It supposedly gave Heaven's Gate a high standard to live up to and while I would never rate the Deer Hunter as low as that five hours of agony, I fail to see what this film did to convince producers Plodding, laborious and pretentious. It supposedly gave Heaven's Gate a high standard to live up to and while I would never rate the Deer Hunter as low as that five hours of agony, I fail to see what this film did to convince producers that Cimino could be trusted with $40 million. It does however deserve four points for a typically superb performance from De Niro. Expand
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4
WillMarshallJul 8, 2017
This review contains spoilers, click expand to view. "The Deer Hunter" is full of powerhouse performances, foremost among them Christopher Walken and Robert De Niro's war vets, and its Vietnam scenes are extremely intense and harrowing. BUT, the film is pushing three hours, and its plot doesn't support its runtime. It isn't some Apocalypse Now-style war epic - it's a very personal and psychological drama. Because of this, we're not jumping from set-piece to set-piece, but rather watching a collection of well-acted and simultaneously profoundly uninteresting characters meander about doing nothing-in-particular for several hours. The set-pieces it does have - the very long wedding sequence at the beginning, and the Vietnam segment that makes up the middle of the film as examples - are hit-and-miss. The wedding scene runs far too long, while the Vietnam segment is the highlight of the film, but nevertheless it is book-ended either side with the tedious "drama" of boring people being very quiet around one another.

The film does manage to be quite compelling up until Robert De Niro's protagonist returns home, perhaps two thirds of the way through the movie. The climactic game of Russian Roulette between Walken's and De Niro's characters is similarly very compelling. The problem is that what bridges this gap is an hour of pure monotony, with Meryl Streep's character doing so little in the film that her inclusion feels meaningless. That's the worst part of the film - you feel as though you've watched a really top-notch war drama and are about prepared to go, but then you realize, oh wait, there's still another hour to go. And that's the crime of this film. It's not in the performances, or in the direction really, or even in the story - the performances are deserving of the highest praise, the film is well, if coldly, directed, and the plot is sound, with parts of it very compelling. The problem is that this story does not support a three-hour epic, and so its runtime is enormously bloated, leaving the film a deeply personal psychological war drama masquerading as a very boring epic.
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