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Apocalypse Now
Year:
1979
Country:
USA
Genre:
Drama, Action, History, War
IMDB rating:
8.5
Director:
Francis Ford Coppola
Marlon Brando as Kurtz
Martin Sheen as Marlow
Robert Duvall as Lieutenant Colonel Bill Kilgore
Frederic Forrest as Jay 'Chef' Hicks
Sam Bottoms as Lance B. Johnson
Laurence Fishburne as Tyrone 'Clean' Miller
Albert Hall as Chief Phillips
Harrison Ford as Colonel Lucas
Dennis Hopper as Photojournalist
G.D. Spradlin as General Corman
Jerry Ziesmer as Jerry, Civilian
Scott Glenn as Lieutenant Richard M. Colby
Bo Byers as MP Sergeant #1
James Keane as Kilgore's Gunner
Storyline: 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...
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Reviews
Yes, it's the best movie ever.
AN is the best movie ever shot. All the cinematographic language is used to a point never met before or afterward. The story is thrilling, and goes up and up to the climatic end. Everything that happens in it has a sense and the levels of reading are infinite. Every viewer will have his own interpretation about the meaning of the movie. It's a matter of feeling the meaning of the events: all of them put together conform a huge, psychological fresco of war. Every war, not only Vietnam. By the way, the Redux version is OK, but not truly necessary, except for the French colonists' scene. It's the only one I really think that should have been in the original version. It's really revealing of the position of France in Indochina. It should be shown in schools to teach the meaning of colonialism.
2007-03-28
War, insanity, and lackluster acting
Apocalypse Now is a movie meant to mess with your head. It succeeds in that for better or for worse. The best part of Apocalypse Now is the way it portrays its atmosphere. It shows the brutality of the Vietnam war. It shows the crazy culture of certain parts of Cambodia. The twisted natives are terrifying. The journalist gone mad shocks you. The flaws of this movie lies in its actors. Nearly all of the actors give just an acceptable performance. No performances stand out as impressive. The characters are just plot pieces fulfilling certain tasks to drive the plot. Martin Sheen doesn't communicate the degeneration of his mind, his environment does. This film would have been greatly enhanced by a performance showing Willard going mad instead of it just being told to you at the last minute.
2015-12-17
The Dark Side of Man
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.
2005-08-14
Lives Up To Its Title
From all of the Vietnam war movies this is probably the most frightening and disturbing and that is really saying a lot with so many spectacular ones that have come out. It has this freakish feel to it. Everything is so chaotic in the movie it scares you. It is not like it shows a lot of different things compared to the other Vietnam war movies. What does push to such a high level is the:

The directing was spectacular here. Francis Ford Coppola shows of his talent in his last epic movie. Unlike other directors he makes you feel as if you are in the war. Most others just display and show you the horrors of war. Coppola though makes you feel confused, shocked and scared. These feelings of war are usually told to us from a movie or story. This is something that I have only experienced very few times while watching a film. The writing was of course amazing too. It brought you write into the middle of the movie. It never made me bored and this movie is three hours. The cinematography goes hand in hand with the directing which very much added to the freakish experience of watching this film showing all the chaos around you even when everything seems calm.

The acting was bone-chilling. Just look at Marlon Brando also giving his last great performance playing a deluded, out of whack colonel. When ever I think of a crazy gone made soldier I think Marlon Brando in Apocalpyse Now. With Brando n this film you don't want to look into his eyes. Like the movie he was freakish. To me this performance is as memorable as the one he gave in The Godfather. Martin Sheen gave a very deep performance and probably the best one of his career making you see everything through his eyes all the craziness he is experiencing and yet wanting him to get to his goal. It is just a wonder why these two did not get Oscar nominations. Robert Duvall was able to show part of that craziness with his ludicrous battle strategies, among those playing music to tell the enemy he is coming. Also Duvall's character asking one of the soldiers to surf in the middle of a battle was just shocking but believable. Other great supporting performances were given by a young Laurence Fishburne, Sam Bottoms and Frederic Forest who all summed up the attitudes of many of the soldiers at that time without becoming a cliché. Also for once cameos were put into good use having Dennis Hopper and Harrison Ford who I both love.

I would definitely recommend people to watch this movie. It has a message and everyone involved in the making of it is at their best. There is nothing more I could ask of this movie with its great acting, directing, writing, cinematography and great ending. Watch and you will see why it lives up to its title Apocalpyse Now.
2008-04-24
Great interpretation of a good book to deliver points on the nature of war
In an updating of `Hearts of Darkness' a soldier is given a mission to travel up a river During the Vietnam war in order to terminate the command of Colonel Kurtz. Kurtz is operating without orders and is leading a group of natives in brutal violent strikes against the enemy. Despite his history of brilliance and decoration he has clearly gone mad. Willard joins a military boat and travels up river to his destiny. However the further he travels the more madness appears to have become the norm.

It is a film everyone knows, and a `making of' story that is familiar to everyone on some level. The problems with the military, with destroyed sets right down to Keitel walking off set to be replaced by Martin Sheen who then had a near complete breakdown during filming. However the story itself is what keeps this so popular. The original book is set in Victorian times and is similar only in the concept of travelling up a river and confronting something dark and changed in the shape of Kurtz. The modern day spin on it makes it even more interesting as it looks at the madness that comes with power within war.

The journey itself is at times comic and at other times brutal. The overall feeling is one of soldiers not knowing why they are fighting or who they are fighting. The feeling of confusion and fear is inherent in the film and is very well delivered. Willard's journey never fails to grip and is interesting on whatever level you watch it – whether it be for the famous set pieces or for the underlying themes.

The performances are excellent. Sheen has never been better and now seems so distant from his character that he is a different person. While some of the emotion on screen was real, he does a great job as our guide through the journey. The best performance comes from a surprising source –Brando. Despite the fact that he was difficult, horribly over weight and hadn't learnt his lines, his eerie performance is still haunting. His mumbling and reasoning in the shadows show that he may be touched by madness but, in the context of war, he is also touched by cold logical reasoning. Likewise Dennis Hopper fits in well despite his stoned demeanour. The support cast include some names as Albert Hall, Harrison Ford, Forrest and a young Larry Fishburne.

Overall this will remain a classic on many levels. The film itself is great and full of spectacle, the story of the making itself is interesting, the performances are wonderful despite everything and the fact that it has other themes makes it even better. As an war movie it is great simply because it isn't about the war it IS war – in the words of Coppola `it isn't about Vietnam, it is Vietnam, it's how the Americans were in Vietnam. We were in the jungle, we had too much money, too much equipment and, little by little, we went insane'. Classic film on so many levels.
2002-07-01
The bravest , most honest account of the futility of war ever filmed.
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.
2005-10-08
Make sure it's Redux
This is a classic war movie. One of the best, a stark image fest of flashing lights, harrowing dark backgrounds and helicopter blades morphing into ceiling fans. A star-studded spectacle of immense power.

Martin Sheen is a mercenary sent up river to assassinate the general gone astray, a sadistic dictator played beyond belief by the great Marlon Brando. Also along for the ride are, Robert Duvall as an over the top DI with a penchant for "napalm in the morning" or at least the smell of it. Dennis Hopper is an edgy photojournalist with a view slanted views about the war and about his leader. Also in this amazing film you'll see up and coming stars such as Laurence Fishburne, R. Lee Ermey, Sam Bottoms, Albert Hall and keep an eye out for Harrison Ford too...

Behind the lens is Francis Ford Coppolla delivering a film with maybe more intensity and drama than the acclaimed Godfather films, he highlights war in it's most basic form, which for the most part is something you can't see, you can only feel it, as the boat carries on up river the feeling of the war tightening in is quite unbearable. The feeling of this is a rather claustrophobic feeling and really makes for unusual moods from the viewers. Honestly no films has ever made me feel like that.

Criticism is hard to find. The biggest qualm from some is that Brando earned tons of money for a ten minute role, but in all fairness this is unjustified. It was money well earned, a role that physically restricted him, being at the time an unwell man, and a role that he really made his own. I can't picture anyone better for the role. And if you get the Apocalypse Now Redux version, there's some extra bits of the great man, and I think the Redux does make the film miles better.

Final impressions are that if you are lucky to get the Redux version then you will be blessed with a completely satisfying film with a cool 49 minutes extra footage. If not, then still you won't be disappointed, this film is up there with the best, and deserves some great recognition, and a firm place as one of the top 50 films ever made...
2006-03-09
Not the Vietnam movie you might have expected.
I saw the 1979 version first, and recently both this and the Redux version. The original is a much more powerful film so I'll address it first.

First off, this is not a movie about the grunt experience. It's a sweeping overview of the entire war, filtered through the experience of one airborne Capt. Willard (Martin Sheen), assigned to a special mission to off a renegade Special Forces colonel (Marlon Brando).

This film covers in short vignettes many of the contradictions of Vietnam: 1. The opening scenes deal obliquely with the difficulties of Vietnam vets in dealing with life back home. 2. The contradiction between bombing peasants out of their homes and relocating them while telling them that "we are here to help you!". 3. The distinction between the US forces bringing massive firepower onto positions against guerrillas that bring down expensive helicopters with suicide attacks with grenades. 4. The relative luxury of US soldiers in the field (with radio, tapes, dope, motorcycles, booze, flown-in steaks, surfboards, and Playboy centerfold shows) vs. the Viet Cong R&R consisting of "cold rice and rat meat". 5. The refusal of American military and political leadership to recognize that the conflict could only be settled by total war or political settlement, or that the Viet Cong movement was not linked seriously to either Soviet or Chinese Communism.

"Apocalypse Now" delivers these messages in a series of powerful visual montages: the opening scene with the 'thwock-thwock' of chopper rotors melting into the sound of an overhead fan; quiet, peaceful looking rainforest exploding under a napalm attack; the exquisite charge of an airborne unit descending on a VC village in a hail of bullets and Wagner; a quiet boat ride upriver interrupted by hell breaking loose in gunfire, or the sight of the tail section of a downed B-52 rising up out of the fog.

But the key line of the movie is the one delivered by Brando: "You're neither (an assassin or a soldier). You're an errand boy, sent by grocery clerks, to collect a bill." A brilliant summary of the US Army brass at that time.

The movie leaves open the question of whether Kurtz was truly insane, or whether he simply went beyond his purview because he recognized that the only way to defeat the Viet Cong was to be as brutally committed as they were -- that is, total war and obliteration, which would have been politically unacceptable to the US public.

The 1979 version is one of my favorite movies of all time.

The Redux version is an excellent example of why movies are edited. It includes a couple of sexually-based episodes, one with the Playboy girls in an abandoned medevac unit, the other with a group of French colonists. I'm as much of a fan of seeing female nudity as the next guy, but neither scene advances the story, so it was wise to delete them.

There is also an extended scene involving a funeral for 'Clean' and a dinner with a group of French plantationers expounding on the pre-history of the US involvement. I can see that it also would have been a distraction from the feel of the movie, which is a shame because I suspect even now that few Americans know about what happened prior to US entry and how the US supported the Viet Minh (later Viet Cong) to fight against the Japanese in WW II. (Sound familiar?)

The one real mistake in the movie was including Dennis Hopper as the spaced-out photojournalist hanging out with Kurtz. I love Hopper, but his character was totally unnecessary here. Laurence Fishburne is remarkably unrecognizable as the skinny boat gunner Clean. And Robert Duvall chews up the scene as the AirCavalry colonel.
2011-05-09
Beware
Beware, my friends. Though bold and striking, this is not a movie that should show its face in the new millennium or any era of artistic expression evolved beyond adolescence. Casual film-goers will probably be impressed at the scenery, the grandeur and the theatrics as I was when I was 16. But years later, I've matured a bit, and I am absolutely horrified and sickened at how I was duped. (It's not unlike the feeling of rummaging through your old 80s wardrobe and seeing those "cool" parachute pants, acid-washed jeans and Miami Vice sockless-loafers accusing you from beyond the grave!)

Not all of you, but an (enlightened?) minority WILL BE OFFENDED by this movie. Certainly the veterans of Vietnam will smell something rank about how Mr. Coppola made such a pretentious carnival out of that truly humbling and difficult time. But what I found utterly damning of this film, despite the best efforts of performers, were the atrocities that Mr. Coppola committed for the sake of his magnum opus. A bull was slaughtered live and on camera just for some added gore (of which there is no shortage in this movie). Acres of beautiful, Filipino countryside were ignited with Hollywood napalm (gasoline). And last but not least, an entire culture was slandered beyond belief to a degree from which they may not have yet recovered.

A few years ago, a New York radio personality gained enormous popularity with his irreverent and vulgar on-air antics. I admit that at the time I was amused by the novelty, but then I grew up. It may be a few decades yet, but I have enough faith in human/artistic evolution that this movie will similarly be relegated to its proper place as a monumental but shameful part of our ever-growing history.

My advice to those of you with unquenchable curiosity? Before contributing to the popularity and profits of this production (as I foolishly did), borrow a copy of this movie from someone and watch it secretly, as you would a horrible car wreck on the side of the road.
2003-12-28
A superb exploration of both film and literature.
First of all, I believe that this movie is much more appreciated by viewers who have actually read Joseph Conrad's "Heart Of Darkness", the book that was the literary basis for the movie. With that said, I believe that this movie is astounding. It is an excellent war film that doesn't so much concentrate on the gore and brutality of the Vietnam Conflict, but more the psychological toll that it took on the young, inexperienced "kids" who were sent to fight it. Coppola showed real genius in the art of film-making, using many visuals to help tell the story. The acting I felt was definitely all-around up to par. Marlon Brando's part in the movie is what really got me as far as acting. His elucidation to Willard at the end of the film reels you in, and reveals the hollowness of a man that you've heard about and wanted to see throughout the movie. Those who would consider this just another war movie need to give a detailed look to all the literary elements that are entwined with this film, because there is a great amount of meaning behind it all. In my opinion, this is one of the most sculptured and best-made films of all time.
2006-07-02
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