Starring Bruce Dern, the film takes place in the far future, after Earth has wiped out its ecosystem and has sent its forests into space aboard enormous greenhouse spaceships. All is well until the order comes in to blow up the greenhouse and return to earth, which drives ultra-greenie Freeman Lowell (Dern) to desperate measures -- namely, killing off his crewmates and trying to escape undetected with the ship into deep space.
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Right. But all the same, the critics were right the second time around. Time has eroded the chief power The Deer Hunter had in 1978, which was to speak to America's anxiety about itself in the wake of Watergate and Vietnam. Stripped of its '70s moment, it looks now like a film that strives for meaning but doesn't know what it wants to say. It gives us both small-town America and war-torn Vietnam, but neither convincingly. It confuses ambiguity with art, blood for drama. But before those flaws set in, it gives us the promise of a great movie about tested friendship. Set in the late '60s, the film opens on the day of a wedding in a Pennsylvania steel town, as the groom Steven (John Savage), Michael (De Niro), and Nick (Walken), all Russian-immigrant working-class stock, prepare to go to Vietnam for a tour of duty.
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One thing's for certain: Kris Kristofferson is blameless. A solid if not terribly nuanced actor, he plays James Averill, an upstanding marshal who arrives Johnson County, Wyoming to investigate rumors of turmoil there. It's worse than he imagines; as the station agent explains when Averill arrives, Johnson County (not Cimino) has become "the asshole of creation," thanks to ongoing bloodshed between wealthy WASP landowners and the immigrant settlers who try to work their small parcels of land. The landowners are led by the obscenely amoral Frank Canton (Sam Waterston, razor-sharp), who draws up a "death list" of 125 Johnson County residents who are legally approved to be killed under false accusations of thievery.
Continue reading: Heaven's Gate Review