An in-depth examination of the ways in which the U.S. Vietnam War impacts and disrupts the lives of people in a small industrial town in Pennsylvania.An in-depth examination of the ways in which the U.S. Vietnam War impacts and disrupts the lives of people in a small industrial town in Pennsylvania.An in-depth examination of the ways in which the U.S. Vietnam War impacts and disrupts the lives of people in a small industrial town in Pennsylvania.
I have seen this film several times and I'll admit that I always assume that it is a classic film mainly because I saw it twice when I was in my early teens and was blown away by parts of it. I say this because I want to acknowledge that it may not be as great a film as many critics lists believe it to be, but at the same time I still watch it occasionally as I find it to be a moving story and a good film. The plot is moving if it is viewed on it's surface as a tale of three men whose lives are deeply affected by the war. Going past that to deeper themes I always feel that the film doesn't manage to be as deep as it thinks it is, so I try not to linger too long on these.
The breakdown of the film gives significantly more time to events in the home town rather than Vietnam. This is as it should be for many people the war was a fleeting thing that has stayed with them for much longer than they were actually involved. The wedding scene is a little overlong but it does serve as a chance to get to see the characters in their setting before we quickly move to the events that changed them and the people they become. The time in Vietnam is quite short but very memorable (many people who have never seen the film will still know these scenes) and the final hour or so of the film is moving even if it takes things to an extreme to make it's point.
The cast make the film work as well, if not more, than the material itself. De Niro is the rock on which it all stands and is pretty good. The only weakness in his performance was that he was the one who had to be `the hero' type who does what he can. Walken gets the lion share of praise for his is the role that changes the most significantly throughout the film. It is easy to forget that he was not anywhere near as famous as De Niro at this time and it is amazing in that regard to see him hold his own. Savage gives a good performance and support is strong in the form of such actors as Cazale, Dzundza and Aspegren. Even Streep gives a performance refreshingly free of sentiment or forced accents.
The film is a little overlong and could easily have lost 30 minutes (although not all from one place) to give it a tighter feel. Some scenes feel stretched beyond their useful duration leading to the feel that the film wanted to be 3 hours long, rather than being cut back to 3 hours long. Despite this though I still think this is a good film that is a powerful story at it's heart. I personally don't think it would make my top 50 (were I ever to do one) but I will watch it again.
- bob the moo
- Jul 5, 2003