Starring Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken, John Savage, Meryl Streep
Intense. Intimate. Epic.
The lives of working-class buddies in a small Pennsylvania town are interrupted when three from the group head to Vietnam with the Army. There, Mike (the most serious of the group), Nick, and Steven are forced into a game of Russian Roulette that scars them well after they manage to escape. Mike might be De Niro’s best performance and most compelling character (and yes, I have seen Raging Bull). Walken and Streep with the two key supporting roles also stand out. My problems with the film have been noted by others, and mainly concern its lack of complexity. It wears its emotions on its sleeve. The other side, the Northern Vietnamese, are foreign and brutal. Rather than condemn this aspect as racist, I simply saw it as an extension of the film’s simple-mindedness. This being said, the three-hour long epic was engaging and moving. The crap-shoot chance involved in the Russian roulette sequences plus the acting makes for two memorably brutal and sad scenes. I also admired the odd three distinct act structure that makes the film feel epic and not drag. The scenes between De Niro and Streep are some of the best in the movie.
-Walter Tyrone Howard-