A mentally unstable veteran works as a nighttime taxi driver in New York City, where the perceived decadence and sleaze fuels his urge for violent action by attempting to liberate a presidential campaign worker and an underage prostitute.
Robert De Niro,
It is the height of the war in Vietnam, and U.S. Army Captain Willard is sent by Colonel Lucas and a General to carry out a mission that, officially, 'does not exist - nor will it ever exist'. The mission: To seek out a mysterious Green Beret Colonel, Walter Kurtz, whose army has crossed the border into Cambodia and is conducting hit-and-run missions against the Viet Cong and NVA. The army believes Kurtz has gone completely insane and Willard's job is to eliminate him. Willard, sent up the Nung River on a U.S. Navy patrol boat, discovers that his target is one of the most decorated officers in the U.S. Army. His crew meets up with surfer-type Lt-Colonel Kilgore, head of a U.S Army helicopter cavalry group which eliminates a Viet Cong outpost to provide an entry point into the Nung River. After some hair-raising encounters, in which some of his crew are killed, Willard, Lance and Chef reach Colonel Kurtz's outpost, beyond the Do Lung Bridge. Now, after becoming prisoners of Kurtz, will...Written by
When pulling out from the Do Long bridge you can see the wake caused by the camera boat when the camera shows the boat pulling away. See more »
Saigon... shit; I'm still only in Saigon... Every time I think I'm gonna wake up back in the jungle.
When I was home after my first tour, it was worse.
[grabs at flying insect]
I'd wake up and there'd be nothing. I hardly said a word to my wife, until I said "yes" to a divorce. When I was here, I wanted to be there; when I was there, all I could think of was getting back into the jungle. I'm here a week now... waiting for a mission... getting softer. Every minute I stay in this room...
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There are no opening credits in the film. The title can be seen as graffiti in the Kurtz compound late in the film. See more »
There are four different treatments of the end credits, all four are available in different VHS, laserdisc, DVD and TV prints of the film......
When the film premiered in a limited 70mm format, it had no beginning or end credits, nothing but a one-line Omni Zoetrope copyright notice at the end. Programs were passed out to theatre goers in lieu of any credits (this ending was used for the theatrical cut featured on the 2011 Blu-Ray release).
When the film went into its wide release its format was 35mm. This version included end credits rolling over surrealistic explosions and burning jungle, showing the Kurtz compound being destroyed (included as a deleted scene on the 2011 Blu-Ray release, with optional commentary from Coppola).
When Coppola heard that people were assuming that the explosions during the end credits of the 35mm version meant that an air strike had been called in on the Kurtz compound (which is not what he wanted audiences to think) he quickly re-edited the 35mm version to have the end credits rolling over a simple black background and a slightly altered musical score.
The "Redux" version also has the end credits over a black background but in different screen fonts and including additional "Redux" inserted cast members.
This film was incredibly well done, and the similarities to Conrad's Heart of Darkness were amazing, creating a similar message in the end. The first scene is everything: the cinematography was perfect, and The End by the Doors as the soundtrack worked eerily well. Lighting throughout the movie, especially surrounding the mysterious Kurtz (although it was needed) also worked well to establish the mood.
Throughout the movie, we are encouraged to see that Kurtz' inhumanity likely stems from being put in a situation where he answers to (essentially) no one, where there are no rules, and where morals he thought he once had fell apart. Maybe, it is more the absence of "civilization" that leads to the "civilization" that encourages inhumane treatment. It is human nature that is at fault, not any individual or group. The encouragement of American society for Kurtz to act in this way also definitely had an effect on him, but this is also human nature in a way. Human nature includes the elite's love for power and their ability to send others off to do the dirty work as well as the quality of obedience in those "others". All of these are human biases, and it seems like only the people who have a great deal of self-awareness/control would be able to overcome them. Coppola's genius in Apocalypse Now encourages us to recognize that we all have darkness inside of us, but it is our ability to overcome this madness, even in the face of no authority or laws OR in the face of authority that is evidently incorrect, that is what matters. This movie, like Conrad's masterpiece, also raises the following questions: When to "shield" the truth? Who should do so? Does anyone have the right to do so? Should the public have full access to all knowledge? It makes sense to think that the general public is sometimes not in the position to make a good judgement call and that emotions would cloud our judgement. But this mindset is also dangerous for the people who ultimately make the call, as it places them on a pedestal that could then cloud their judgement. Hard question that we need to ask ourselves...
There are also apparent differences between Apocalypse Now and Heart of Darkness. For example, in Heart of Darkness, the British Empire stands firm, with Conrad seeming to respect the British Empire endlessly. With such a positive view of the motherland, the implications in Heart of Darkness in terms of England seem to be that all is not yet lost and there is some hope for mankind after all. The film is entirely different; after watching it and learning of the Vietnam war, few people would dare to advocate for the US as a solution to any problem today. This then leads us to the opposite conclusion: that America has absolutely no right to put itself on a pedestal that creates 'good' in the world. And of course, in today's view, this idea is much more realistic and applicable. I appreciate that Coppola urges his audience to recognize that America is not some heaven and also to look back on history and our mistakes. This movie was very well done, with aspects like sound and editing coming together to create a masterpiece, and raises difficult questions that we must ask ourselves.
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