Five close friends work as a team at a Pennsylvania steel mill. At the weekend, they sometimes head off for the mountains to hunt deer. In 1968, three of them – Michael, Nick and Steven – are called up for military service in Vietnam. Before they depart, Steven marries Angela (who is pregnant – though nobody knows by whom) in a Russian Orthodox wedding ceremony. Linda, although attracted to Michael, promises Nick that she will marry him when he returns from the war.
Two years later, the three friends are reunited in North Vietnam, only to be captured soon after and sent to an incredibly brutal prisoner of war camp. They manage to escape after Nick and Michael kill one of the guards. During an attempt to airlift them to safety by helicopter, Nick is rescued, but Michael and Steven fall into a river. Michael secures a place in a US tank for Steven, who is badly injured. He will now have to find his own way back from North Vietnam.
When Nick is released from a Saigon psychiatric clinic, he gets to know Julien, who introduces him to heroin and the hellish underworld that thrives on the extreme conditions created by war. Michael returns to Pennsylvania, thinking that he is the sole survivor of the group. He tries to resume his old life, takes Nick's place alongside Linda, and goes hunting again. He soon discovers, however, that his experiences in Vietnam ruin his pleasure in hunting.
When Michael learns that Steven has lost both his legs and is still alive in a veterans' hospital, he persuades him to return home to his wife and child. He then hears that Nick, too, is still alive […]
Translated from: Festival-Programmblatt der 29. Internationalen Filmfestspiele Berlin 1979
Print courtesy of the Academy Film Archive, Los Angeles.