BARRY NORMAN: FILM OF THE DAY The Deer Hunter ★★★★★
This Vietnam War movie featuring the famous Russian roulette scenes was the late director Michael Cimino’s finest work, made before everything went belly up with Heaven’s Gate. The protagonists are three Russian-American steelworkers from Pennsylvania – Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken and John Savage. It begins cheerfully with Savage’s wedding and then moves abruptly into Vietnam where our heroes, now conscripted into the army, are captured and viciously tortured – cue the Russian roulette. At three hours the film is overlong and by no means flawless but is still a tense, moving story of survival, male bonding and the appalling, dehumanising effects of war on young men. The movie, Cimino and Walken (best supporting actor) all won Oscars. And there’s excellent support from Meryl Streep as Walken’s girlfriend.