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My favourite movie of all time. This was a flawed piece of work by
Coppola and seeing the documentary 'Heart of Darkness' made it even
more compelling. Coppola at this point was king of Hollywood after
making 'the Godfather' and 'GodfatherII' and had developed the ego
necessary to even dare try to make a movie like 'Apocalypse Now'.
Through sheer arrogance he went to the Phillipines with a partial
script and thought he would know what he would do when he got there.
Just as Captain Willard thought he would know what to do once he got to
Col. Kurtz's compound. And just like Willard, he DIDN'T know what he
was going to do once he got there. This is such a masterpiece of
American cinema, beautifully photographed and the river is such a
perfect metaphor and backdrop for the story. What I like most about
'Apocalypse Now' is that it offers no answers or conclusions.
Consequently, because of this open-endedness, it infuriates some
viewers who like their movies to be much more obvious.
This movie defies categorization. Some call it a war movie which it isn't at all, really it is more of a personal study of man. The best pic about Vietnam is 'Platoon' in my opinion and if a viewer is seeking a retelling of the Vietnam War go there first for answers.
Coppola should be commended for his take on the bureaucracy of war which he conveys quite effectively with the meeting with Gen.Corman and Lucas (Harrison Ford) and the Playmate review. The sheer audacity of Kilgore makes him an unforgettable character and the dawn attack will always be a Hollywood classic.
It is an almost psychedelic cruise to a very surreal ending which makes it a movie not accessible to everyone. Very challenging to watch but rewarding as well. I could offer my explanations on each scene but that would be totally pointless. This movie is intended for interpretation and contemplation as opposed to immediate gratification.
A little footnote, definitely if your a first-time viewer of Apocalypse Now, watch the original version first, the 'Redux' version is, I think, more intended for the hardcore fan and is more of a curiosity than a 'new and improved' version of the movie
I first saw APOCALYPSE NOW in 1985 when it was broadcast on British
television for the first time . I was shell shocked after seeing this
masterpiece and despite some close competition from the likes of
FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING this movie still remains my all time favourite
nearly 20 years after I first saw it
This leads to the problem of how I can even begin to comment on the movie . I could praise the technical aspects especially the sound , editing and cinematography but everyone else seems to have praised ( Rightly too ) these achievements to high heaven while the performances in general and Robert Duvall in particular have also been noted , and everyone else has mentioned the stark imagery of the Dou Long bridge and the montage of the boat traveling upriver after passing through the border
How about the script ? Francis Ford Coppola is best known as a director but he's everyway a genius as a screenwriter as he was as a director , I said " was " in the past tense because making this movie seems to have burned out every creative brain cell in his head , but his sacrifice was worth it . In John Milius original solo draft we have a script that's just as insane and disturbing as the one on screen , but Coppola's involvement in the screenplay has injected a narrative that exactly mirrors that of war . Check how the screenplay starts off all jingoistic and macho with a star turn by Bill Kilgore who wouldn't have looked out of place in THE GREEN BERETS but the more the story progresses the more shocking and insane everything becomes , so much so that by the time reaches Kurtz outpost the audience are watching another film in much the same way as the characters have sailed into another dimension . When Coppola states " This movie isn't about Vietnam - It is Vietnam " he's right . What started off as a patriotic war to defeat communist aggression in the mid 1960s had by the film's setting ( The Manson trial suggests it's 1970 ) had changed America's view of both the world and itself and of the world's view of America
It's the insane beauty of APOCALYPSE NOW that makes it a masterwork of cinema and says more in its running time about the brutality of conflict and the hypocrisy of politicians ( What did you do in the Vietnam War Mr President ? ) than Michael Moore could hope to say in a lifetime . I've not seen the REDUX version but watching the original print I didn't feel there was anything missing from the story which like all truly great films is very basic . In fact the premise can lend itself to many other genres like a western where an army officer has to track down and kill a renegade colonel who's leading an injun war party , or a sci-fi movie where a UN assassin is to eliminate a fellow UN soldier who's leading a resistance movement on Mars , though this is probably down to Joseph Conrad's original source novel
My all time favourite movie and it's very fitting that I chose this movie to be my one thousandth review at the IMDb
As I peruse through the hundreds of comments that loyal readers of the IMDB have posted on this film, I find it very interesting how few ,"middle of the road" comments there are. Everyone either loves it, or they hate it. Having seen Apocalypse Now approximately 30 times, and having recently dissected it on DVD (how did we ever live without those magical digital machines?????), I can say without hesitation that I am one of those who have a very special place in my heart for this film. "Why would you like a film that's so confusing?" ask many of my associates. The answer is this: Forget the war, forget the brutality....This is a classic story of society protecting itself from those that refuse to fall in line with the status quo. Brando represents the individual that has his own way of getting the job done. They (Big Brother) sent him out to do the job, he does it too well, without adhering to the accepted "standards" of death and destruction (Am I the only one who's troubled by the fact that we have 'standards' for death and destruction????), so they send the "Conformity Police" out to eliminate the individual. Hmmmmmm....Draw any parallels between this and things you see every day? With the deepest respect to Mr. Coppola, whom I believe is one of the best directors of all time, I think he transcended his original intent of the movie, and probably didn't even realize it until after the movie was released. The subtle sub-text that permeates the entire movie has way too much to it to have been planned and portrayed; instead, it seems to have 'grown' itself, like some wild flower in the middle of a vegetable garden. Again I must reiterate: I think FF Coppola did a bang-up job on this entire production, as did the cast and crew, but the sum of the movie exceeds the individual efforts ten-fold. So if you haven't seen the movie, rent it, watch it, then watch it again, and maybe a few more times, and look for all the generic parallels to everyday life. Only then make a judgment on the quality of the film. Those of you that have seen it, watch it again with the mindset previously described. I think you may just have a whole new appreciation for the film. Or maybe not! No matter whether you love it or hate it, be sure and give credit to Coppola for his masterful story-telling style!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I'm starting to get weary when I hear the term "director's cut". Some are
good like Ridley Scott's "Blade Runner" but William Friedkin totally
up the end of "The Exorcist" in his restored version, but this is even
worse. "Apocalypse Now" was very well made and it seems that Coppola who
in his creative prime when he made the film (having completed "Godfather I
II" and "The Conversation" and then never coming even close to anything
compelling after that) simply decided to desicrate this film. He should
realized that he was a much better director when he made "Apocalypse Now?
then he is at present, and that he cut out the scenes in question for good
-I like the extra footage of Col Kilgore, but having Willard steal his surfboard and then laugh with glee like a frat boy was totally not in his character and it was best left on the cutting room floor.
-The playboy bunnies extra scene is beyond ridiculous. It wasn't even inserted into the movie correctly. One minute it's a sunny day Willard is reading Col. Kurt's letter to his son and looking at a photo of Kurtz, and then suddenly it's raining and they come across the army camp. Willard offers two drums of deisel fuel in exchange for sex for the boys on the boat. Again..totally out of character for Willard, and completely unbelievable as a whole. Theres a five minute awkward scene with the men and the bunnies and then FLASH their back on the boat again, it's not raining anymore and Willard is staring at the same photo of Kurtz again, terrible editing!! Afterwhich is the scene where they come across the Vietnamese supply boat and kill the passengers. The impact of this scene is taken away as the motivations of the crew are not as understandable anymore. Also when Willard kills the injured Vietnamese woman because he's in a hurry to get moving, makes no sense now. He wasn't in too big a hurry in the previous scene having made the deal for the men to have sex with the bunnies????
-The French Plantation sequence is too looooonngg. Willard (at their dinner table) asks why the family is still in Vietnam, to which he gets a TWENTY MINUTE answer by everyone at the table as they yell back and forth at each other. He then SUDDENLY ends up with this French woman while the soundtrack spews very sappy music. I was wondering what happend to the movie during this entire sequence....the river....the war....colonel Kurtz???? After watching this awful sequence I said to myself "the horror, the horror".
-The extra scene with Brando reading Time Magazine is also pointless. Also seeing the Kurtz character in broad daylight, instead of the shadowing figure that we were limited to in the original version takes away his foreboding.
All these scenes add nothing to the film except extreme length. I tend to like long movies but not when they are injected with pointless scenes, the movies previous 2 1/2 hour length was perfect for it. I will keep my old original DVD of "Apocalypse Now". I hope some day they release a two disc set of this film. It will have the original version in the 2:35 to 1 aspect ratio. And another disc with trailers, "Hearts of Darkness a filmaker's Apocalypse", and they can even throw in the extra "Redux" scenes in a deleted scenes option just for laughs.
STICK WITH THE ORIGINAL!!! As far as "Apocalypse Now Redux" goes, for me, this version does not exist...nor will it ever exist.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
During the final throes of the Vitnam war, our central character, Capt.
Willard (Martin Sheen) is dispatched by the CIA on an illegal one-man
mission to assassinate a renegade US Marine commander, Colonel Kurtz
(Marlon Brando), who has allegedly gone 'completely insane', but who is
successfully waging a private cross-border war from his base in
Cambodia, a neutral and therefore off-limits country.
The entire narrated story of what Willard sees and does as he is ferried up the Da Nang river by an undisciplined and terrorised navy patrol boat crew to murder Kurtz is a grand metaphor for the excesses, decadence and ultimately the weakness of the Anglo-Saxon psyche: If we don't understand something, and we are unable to control it, exterminate it. Kurtz had eventually come to know this.
Unless you pay complete attention to every emotional gesture, to every word of the dialogue between the protagonists, especially in the scene where the two of them are alone in Kurtz's darkened lair, you will miss one of the central themes of this incredible movie. Kurtz's subtle deal with his executioner, his unilateral 'surrender' in return for Willard agreeing (did he nod?) to tell Kurtz's 'son' (another metaphor for us, the next generation, the ones watching the movie) the truth about all the horrors that they had both seen in Vietnam, is mind-expanding stuff.The bonding between the two men whilst Kurtz cross-examines Willard,--interlaced with some of his own horror stories, is incredible, nay, genius, film. The closing (intercut)scene of the ritual slaughter of a sacrificial bull is the single most powerful of symbols. Coppolla has made, intentionally or not, the ultimate anti-war statement, one that should resonate through the ages.
Francis Ford Coppola's "Apocalypse Now" is not a Vietnam War film. Do
not confuse it with one. It is set to the back drop of the war, but it
is a metaphorical exposition on the deteriorating effects that war has
on the human psyche. It is also one of the most audacious films ever
made, produced, or even conceived (second to the Lord of the Rings
trilogy. To call it a masterpiece would be an understatement of
proportions as ambitious as the film's production levels.
Opening with no credits and following a memorable first scene playing to the tune of the Doors "The End" as Martin Sheen's Captain Benjamin L. Willard hallucinates to images of helicopters and napalm, the plot is essentially laid out in the first 15 minutes. Willard's mission is to "terminate... with extreme prejudice" Colonel Kurtz (Marlon Brando) who has invariably gone AWOL in the far reaches of the Cambodian jungle and, as told by his general, is "out there operating without any decent restraint, totally beyond the pale of any acceptable human conduct. And he is still in the field commanding troops." Kurtz is a delusional Colonel now being worshipped by a large group of followers who have dubbed him a god. For Willard, this covert operation seems somewhat more manageable than actual combat, yet, the journey he is about to take will be a personal quest that will challenge the limits of his human behavior.
Teaming up with a small crew, they embark down the vast reaches of the river in a rickety boat. Along the way, Willard educates himself on all things Kurtz. During Sheen's raspy voice over, he details his thoughts on the abundance of material he reads. Kurtz was a highly decorated and respected Green Beret. He was a normal man with a family, until a part of him succumbed to the horrors of human brutality and he led himself down the path that Willard is being led. The descent into the jungle is marked by a mesmerizing aura that echoes the battles being fought not to far away. Eventually the power of the experience weights on the group as drugs and a sort of solitary confinement attacks their senses. But Willard seems unfazed and desensitized in his quest to find Kurtz. As he reads about this mythic figure, he is drawn to the man's power and why he has become what he has become. We know that Willard's slow decay will parallel that of Kurtz's.
Marlon Brando has been revered for decades. His presence: unmatchable. His genius: undeniable. But for those unacquainted with his acting prowess and unaccustomed to his physical nuance, Brando can be perceived, in the eyes of an uncompromising film-goer, as a hack. He is most certainly not. Brando was difficult to work with, hard to interpret and impossible to understand, but his talent for unintelligible rants and unparalleled monologues is irrefutable. The man obviously knew what he was doing even if we didn't. His Colonel Kurtz is a being of limitless delusions and continual profundity.
If the film is any indication of the journeys into hell than Francis Ford Coppola's actual experience with making this masterpiece is a true life account of one man's fanatical struggle to produce a movie. It is reported that during the film's 200 plus day principle photography schedule, Coppola contemplated suicide. The film was not only an undeniable struggle to make; it is a grueling film to watch. Coppola's sweat and blood seep through the pores of the steamy locals and his dedication filters through the orifices of Martin Sheen's haunted soldier Willard.
I can not help but feel a warm sense of nostalgia for this type of film. At the dawn of all that was original and unprecedented, films that challenged as well as stimulated were commonplace. Audacity aside, Apocalypse Now is pure film-making. My respect and admiration for Mr. Coppola is of the highest order. But I shudder at the return to what has become the norm for today's standards for film: a lack of innovation. It is not simply the unoriginality of the world of cinema today; it is the fact that nobody seems to care to tell a story anymore or to tell one with heart. But we still have the great ones like Coppola's masterpiece, a film which bathed in its ability to give us something deeper than that which we could comprehend.
That depth in Apocalypse Now is the step into madness. The killing can disturb. The loss of innocence can unhinge. But it is the damage from within; the countless barrages of images that distress, unnerve and detach us from our everyday world and the memories that plague our deepest thoughts that eventually segregates us from humanity and propels us into the realm of the instinctual, the savage and the animalistic. If the thought of killing does not provide sustenance, the act of killing provides man with its fundamental catharsis.
i have lost count as to how many times i have watched this movie. i've
grown tired of it since this is a movie that can be enjoyed and interpreted
on so many levels. they just don't make movies like this
after recently finally watching the riveting documentary on the making of this film (Hearts of Darkness:a filmmakers journey into madness), i'm even more amazed that this film even got finished, yet alone turn out so great.
the fact that they actually filmed this movie in the jungles of the Phillipines is the film's greatest asset. you actually FEEL like your in Vietnam.
all of the actors are fantastic with my favorites still being Robert Duvall ("I love the smell of napalm in the morning!!") martin sheen, and the great Marlon Brando.
a lot of people complain that the film gets too murky, weird and cerebral near the end. well, remeber what Coppolla said about this movie, "This film is not about vietnam, it IS vietnam!" what he means is that this film is about MADNESS and not the war.
this movie is based on the short story "Heart of darkness" by Joseph Conrad and is set against the vietnam war instead of the civil war as in the book. i think that was a brilliant combination in my opinion.
this is perfect, challenging film that is dark, violent, humorous at times and well done in every single possible way.
a true classic
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
'Apocalypse Now Redux', Francis Ford Coppola's war opus is probably the
most beautiful war film I have ever seen. Capt. Benjamin Willard
(Martin Sheen) is a Vietnam soldier who is tapped to head a very
dangerous and highly classified mission into Cambodia to 'terminate the
position' of Col. Kurtz (Marlon Brando), a highly ranked and highly
regarded army man who seemingly has gone completely insane and defected
from the army, setting up his own little society and helped by a
cultish following of soldiers. Escorting him up the river to Cambodia
is a handful of navy men, and along the way, they encounter several
interesting people (most notably is Robert Duvall's Kilgore, a badass
lieutenant colonel with a few screws loose) and some horrifying
'Apocalypse' is less historical war film than a philosophical and psychological study. It is more 'Full Metal Jacket' than 'Platoon'. The running time of 'Apocalypse' is over three hours, but the film is so wonderfully paced and compelling that when the end of the film arrived, I was actually surprised at the amount of time that had passed. The beautiful cinematography is surely what stood out the most for me, however. After seeing this film, I am convinced that Coppola is one of the masters of light and photography in film history. The 'Godfather' films were all tinged with an almost sepia tone, and shadows created the feeling of a Baroque composition. With 'Apocalypse', there is an incredible usage of natural light, and the shadows, particularly in the scenes involving Brando and Sheen, almost become a living character, they are so pervasive and effective. Another gorgeous scene was when Cpt. Willard and Jay Hicks (Frederic Forrest) were in the jungle looking for mangoes, and come across a tiger. The sheer enormity of the surrounding foliage (leaves as big as a house) made the characters almost Lilliputian, but the colorization of the scene was incredible. While everything else was almost a muted grey, the leaves were an incredibly vibrant green, an effect that was particularly striking. Another really minor positive moment in the film was the great scene when the helicopters carrying Duvall and company attack the small village while playing Wagner. This could have just been an ultra-dramatic underlying soundtrack to the scene, but instead Coppola turns the song into an actual part of the scene, with Duvall mentioning that he likes to play it while they are approaching to 'scare the hell out of them'.
The performances in 'Apocalypse' are first class. Much has been made of the amount of money Brando earned for the film, and the amount of trouble he caused. Regardless of this, he turned out a powerful performance for a relatively short amount of screen time. Sheen is completely outstanding - this is the first time I have seen him really unleash in a film and Duvall is a lot of fun to watch as the loony Kilgore. 'Apocalypse Now' is a film that is so pervasive in pop culture by now (most know several choice lines from the film, 'I love the smell of napalm in the morning' et al) but I knew little enough about it that there were plenty of surprises left to experience. I have not seen the original cut of 'Apocalypse Now' so I cannot compare it to this newer cut, but this is a film that should most certainly be experienced. 8/10
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now is a pure example of method
filmmaking. It is the true craftmanship of an essential filmmaker. The art
direction, editing and sound effects are partially a small fragment which
makes this film classical and memorable. What drives the integrity and
semblance of the film is the storyline, acting and inner message. The inner
message evidently enough is that war is hell, or in other words, hell is
war. Not many directors have the ambition or the true courage to establish
such a well-defined piece of art. European filmmakers wouldn't have the
slightest problem of directing the film or throw in their personal feelings
about the war. What is most interesting is that an American filmmaker spoke
his style and the style of the film's collaborators through the continuance
of the film.
The plot is fairly simple and brief, adapted by Joseph Conrad's Heart Of Darkness. Martin Sheen plays the role of Captain Willard, a war-torn character who does not see any hope in life or humanity anymore. He has a mission and it is to capture a presumed Colonel Kurtz (Marlon Brando) who has fabricated an army of existensial soldiers on the outskirts of the Cambodian jungle. Throughout the film we encounter astonishing sequences. The most unforgettable is the dawn helicopter attacks. Robert Duvall's character Colonel Kilgore is a steady and firm example of the basic American army brain: to search and destroy and then destroy some more if it includes yourself. The children walk about the playground, oblivious to any danger. The helicopters come into view from the dawning sea; millions of sprinkle reflect from the water, we hear the helicopter's engines roar from the horizon and soon enough we are stuck in a messy attack. Throughout the sequence we hear Wagner's 'Ride Of The Valkyries'. It is method filmmaking. The starting sequence is as fascinating as the rest of the movie; a beautiful scene of palm trees blowing in the ragged wind and seconds away from being inflamed with a carpet bombing. Let's not forget the scene where the soldiers of the boat in which Sheen travels in, stop an innocent upcoming boat, suspecting them to be VietCongs and carrying artilleries. Then they spark off a heavy scene of shooting in which all of the passengers of the boat are pulverised to pieces with their crops and food savaged in the atrocity.
This film has its famous moment, some better to be kept quiet about until they come through the screen. It doesn't require any intellectual understanding, although the film is intellectually remarkable. The American soldiers in the Vietnam War jumped into the land of a fresh governmental country, aiming to protect themselves and in the end only received death and chaos for their troops and for the majority of the country they were fighting against. It was a war gone mad, like all other wars, without purpose or dignity. It was a pure act of humanity: to destroy and restore their own greedy needs. This is a film in which there is no saviour, where it is hardly possible to find hope in the gloomiest corners and where all surroundings are plagued with the infatuations of greed, anger, foolishness and egoism. As Coppola once said about the film: 'This film isn't about Vietnam. This film IS Vietnam'. He was right to the date. During the current situations of the world, where they are trying to protect their own skin, the world should try to analyse this film as much as possible and wonder about what it is trying to represent. It is a film which does not ask for applause or damnation. It asks for realism.
So just how insane is 'Apocalypse Now'? Well, let's say that it is the kind
of film that makes you want to bang your head against the wall. The
beginning has no credits or titles; nothing. The whole film seems like it's
taking place on a different world, and as the story moves on, sanity itself
is shed. There was a French plantation scene that got cut out, and an
alternate ending that would have had a massive battle scene outside Kurtz's
'Apocalypse Now' is not a realistic film in the sense that the presentation of the Vietnam War is far from correct: helicopters going in BEFORE the napalm strikes, a USO show in the jungle at night, and the final bridge all lit-up like a Christmas tree. (for more realistic 'Nam War movies, try 'The Deer Hunter' or 'Platoon')
But what 'Apocalypse Now' lacks in historical accuracy, it makes up in artistic and dramatic scripting. Some of the best photography and lighting ever can be found here.
The film also raises some severe philosophical issues, and gives us entirely new ones. When the movie begins, the war is raging around us. It is chaotic and nerve-racking, yet still rational. When we finally get to Kurtz's base, the action has died down, but rational thinking has long since been vanquished to the point of total lunacy. This shows us the truth about men of war in times of war and peace. The voyage down the river has a sense of time travel (a sense that would have been much more apparent had the French Plantation scene remained.) And when you get to the end, keep in mind the old phrase: The King is dead... Long live the king.
Is Kurtz insane? Or are we not yet ready to understand him? These questions and more are up to you as 'Apocalypse Now has no easy answers.
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