Classic Review: Apocalypse Now
What We ThoughtGenre: Action, War
What We Liked :Explores the emotional aspect of combat and the madness prevailing throughout. The use of sound is fantastic and set new standards.
What We Disliked:The ending leaves a little too much open to interpretation.
Apocalypse Now is riveting film that explores the emotional aspect of combat and the madness prevailing throughout.
“Kilgore: I love the smell of napalm in the morning.”
Apocalypse Now is a brilliantly cast and riveting film. The performances from a young Martin Sheen and Robert Duvall are iconic. The only problem is that the director, Francis Ford Coppola, doesn’t know how to end the film.
Apocalypse Now tells the story of, Captain Benjamin Wilard (Martin Sheen), who must go to Saigon and terminate with “extreme prejudice” a comrade, Colonel Walter Kurtz (Marlon Brando) who has gone insane. Sheen is given a ragtag crew to take him down the river through Saigon and into Cambodia to find Kurtz and film follows their journey.
Along the way, Wilard needs help getting through some enemy territory and this introduces the films best character. L.T. Colonel Bill Kilgore (Robert Duvall) lives for only two things, war and surfing. At first, it seems he doesn’t want to help Wilard on his mission to get to Cambodia. This quickly changes when Kilgore finds out one of Wilard’s crew members is a famous surfer.
What proceeds is one of the most famous war segments in war films. Kilgore must clear the way for Wilard and brings an armada of helicopters to aid with the job. The men queue up ‘Ride of the Valkyries’ by Wagner and into synchronized combat the fly. The sheer carnage on display while this piece of classical music is playing is defiantly one of the highlights of the film.
Wilard and his crew continue on their journey and they quickly find that continuing with this mission will be futile. The crew following orders from command have no idea about the mission they are dying to complete. When they finally reach the camp where Kurtz resides only three of them left and what they find is but a small taste of hell.
This final sequence is also a memorable segment of the movie, but not because its coherent. The film plays its finale with a deliberate insanity, exemplifying the madness that Kurtz has created with quick cuts and hauntingly dark images. I almost get the sense that in the heat of battle when death is on the line, perhaps both parties have crossed the threshold into insanity.
Francis Ford Coppola had a nightmare of a time completing Apocalypse Now. The acclaimed documentary ‘Heart of Darkness’* goes into the production of the film in great detail. The ending sequence, I imagine took its toll on him to a great extent.
Apocalypse Now is available on DVD and two different versions on Blu-ray. The first edition is much less expensive and contains the original film and the redux* of the film released by Coppola in 2001 that consists of thirty minutes of additional footage. The second edition has an a disc of extra features as well as the documentary ‘Heart of Darkness’.
The tagline of Apocalypse Now is “The Horror…The Horror” and I believe this can be taken out of context to explain war on its own. Kurtz and Willard have entered into circle of never-ending death and everywhere they turn is horrific. Apocalypse Now is riveting film that explores the emotional aspect of combat and the madness prevailing throughout. With its fantastic performances and iconic imagery, Apocalypse Now comes Highly Recommended.
4.5 Hearts / 5
Directed by Francis Ford Coppola
Staring: Martin Sheen, Marlon Brando, Dennis Hopper and Robert Duvall
Available now on DVD and Blu-ray
Images Courtesy of DVDbeaver.com (Blu-ray version of the film)
*Note: The redux and documentary ‘Heart of Darkness’ were not viewed before writing this critique.