Stark and haunting, and still unbearable to watch at times, The Deer Hunter remains a powerful movie experience. Unlike the broad strokes of Apocalypse Now and Full Metal Jacket, the 1979 best-picture Oscar-winner provides a more personal take on the human casualties of the Vietnam War. The finest hour of one-shot-wonder Michael Cimino, who also won an Oscar for best direction, the story starts among the Polish-American community in a small Pennsylvania mining town; the plotline focuses on three lifelong friends, played by Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken and John Savage. Taking the characters through a raucous Polish wedding and a hunting trip, the first half of the film establishes their unbreakable bond, which is redoubled when the story shifts abruptly to their tour of duty in Vietnam. The scene in which the three men are forced by Viet Cong soldiers to play Russian roulette against each other ranks as one of the most harrowing moments committed to film. Unremittingly bleak and highlighted with strong performances, particularly from De Niro and Walken, the film and its anti-war message have lost none of their intensity.
Saturday, TVO at 10 p.m.