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
In the opening scene when Willard is in his apartment, before he punches the mirror there is already a blood stain on his sheets. 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 »
A longer director's cut, titled "Apocalypse Now Redux", debuted on 11 May 2001 at the Cannes film festival. This cut was re-edited by Coppola and Walter Murch and features a new Technicolor dye prints with additional footage originally left out of thetheatrical release. The new version is 197 minutes long (53 minutes longer than the original version). The restored footage also includes the French plantation scenes with Aurore Clement and Christian Marquand, as well as scenes from the crew meeting the Playmates later on.
There are additional scenes when the crew is with Kilgore. During the napalm strike, he helps a wounded Vietnamese child. The napalm strike has ruined the favorable surfing conditions, so Lance and the others leave, much to Kilgore's dismay. Before they leave, Willard steals Kilgore's surfboard. Finally, just before Willard and Chef leave the boat to search for mangoes, a helicopter files by with Kilgore on loudspeaker, asking for his surfboard back.
In the Playmate scenes, Willard trades two drums of oil in exchange for spending two hours with the Bunnies. We see Chef with Miss May in a helicopter, and Lance with the Playmate of the Year in a ransacked house. Miss May was once a bird trainer at Busch Gardens and tries to talk about birds with Chef while he is busy trying to get her to re-enact her photo that he showed the crew. They end up kissing and Miss May gets excited because Chef kisses like a bird. The Playmate of the Year is talking to Lance about her troubles and insecurities about being a Playmate. Clean is seen trying to barge in on both men, and when he barges in on Lance, the Playmates open a chest (in which to hide) and discovers a dead Vietnamese. Lance comforts her. Chef finds out afterwards that Clean is a virgin and starts calling him names on the boat. Willard told Chief that the whole crew can spend time with the Bunnies, but Chief refuses.
At the plantation, Chef figures that they are French first and tells them in French that they are Americans and are friends. They bury Clean with his tape player there, and eat dinner with the French. The crew eats with the staff, and Willard eats with the family. Chef wants to speak to the chef but is informed he only speaks Vietnamese. Willard is lectured about France's colonial history in Indochine as well as their military blunders. There also is a scene with Willard and Roxanne, one of the French women, smoking opium.
At the Kurtz compound, Willard is imprisoned in an oven-like box. Kurtz appears, accompanied by a group of children. He reads to Willard from Time magazine articles about the Vietnam War.
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 compound.
'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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