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Apocalypse Now
Drama, Action, History, War
IMDB rating:
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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The horror... The horror... of overrated movies...
If there has ever been an overrated director, Francis Ford Coppola is the one. Apocalypse Now is nearly universally praised as one of the greatest war films of all time. I consider it to be one of the most overrated movies of all time; far from a masterpiece, it merely cashes in on the American anti-war sentiment of the time.

Let's begin with the film's story itself, shall we? Well, although adapted from fantastic source material (Conrad's Heart of Darkness), Apocalypse Now has a very vague plot joining the film. As I have learned, the film was plagued with production problems, which may be why this is so. Either way, the film is comprised of a few interesting scenarios (I particularly liked the boat massacre) tied together in an extremely convoluted way. The story makes no sense, because it's practically irrelevant— too much side material takes away from a promising plot.

I've said time and time again that Coppola has a very feeble grasp of suspense. During the duration of Apocalypse Now, what does the hero, Willard, do? He watches. What does the audience, therefore, do? We watch Willard watching. The increasing chaos downriver is not a magnificent suspense builder. To be honest, it's sheer boredom.

And what of the characters? Willard is a character made out of cardboard. All he does is frown and think about his mission. I couldn't empathize with him at all, and frankly didn't care whether he was successful in his mission or not. His crew is a ragtag bunch of sketched-in, half realized, uninteresting characters. Robert Duvall's character has fantastic potential, but emerges as uninteresting: he appears, demonstrates Coppola's point that the military is a bunch of hypocrites, and disappears, all without contributing much to the plot

Another thing: a novelist's approach does not work in films. The drama should be performed, and not narrated. Although voice-over proves effective at times, Apocalypse Now is one great big, long voice-over that quickly becomes stale, boring and ineffective.

Another thing: the film supposedly "truly captures" the insanity of war. No. What it does is "subtly" point out the hypocrisy of the American army. They eat meals that the guys in the field would die for. They were planning to punish Kurtz for his murder of four civilians, but praised him once the press got a hold of the story. They send Willard out to kill Kurtz because he's half insane already. There's no leadership at the bridge. The soldiers go absolutely insane over the Playboy "playmates" instead of concentrating on the war (that was one of the film's most disturbing scenes-- not in a good way). A man indiscriminately shoots down innocent Vietnamese peasants. Robert Duvall's character attacks a village because the beach has "the best waves" for surfing. Far from subtle, it points out exactly what Apocalypse Now is: a cash cow for Hollywood after the anti-war movement.

And now for the good bits: After over two hours of insane boredom, Marlon Brando appears AT LAST. After two hours of watching Willard watching the "insanity" of the war, I was glad for a character of interest. Most of Brando's dialogue was, apparently, ad-libbed, and you can tell. His dialogue does not reek of Coppola's mediocre (or just plain bad) screen writing. That is the film's one redeeming quality: only due to Brando (whom I, ironically, consider the most overrated actor ever) is the last 20 minutes of any interest whatsoever. There is one other redeeming quality, and that is the boat massacre. Truly the film's strongest scene, it is sadly followed by a trail of disappointments that all but drown it out.

The Verdict: Far from a masterpiece, Apocalypse Now is barely coherent. Coppola apparently described the film as "not about Vietnam, it is Vietnam". Incorrect. It is Hollywood raking in profits after Vietnam. It's no use accusing me of simply not understanding the movie's point, or of having to watch it again. (I'll live quite comfortably if I never hear of the film again.) As a matter of fact, I've seen it three times: the first in my film class, where I despised it, and had to study it and its "messages"; the second on my own, where I appreciated it a little more, but not by much; the third prior to writing this review, where I returned to my original position. To be blunt, I don't like Apocalypse Now at all.

Overall Rating: 2/10 (Brando's segment alone guarantees the 2)
In my top five favorite films ever made
Apocalypse Now is not only my personal favorite work by Francis Ford Coppolla, it's also one of the great visions ever put onto cinema. It makes what was horrific, strange, and ironically exciting and mysterious about the Vietnam War into this mad tale of obsession, death, loss, and the dark side of humanity. While the stories behind the production of the film made it notorious and rather risky back in 1979, it works on its own terms and represents not just Coppola's genius but others in the Zoetrope team as well. It also paints a sometimes lurid, ultra-violent, bleak and curious view of what war does to people, both in the lower ranks, the big-guns, and those who go too far "up the river".

Many have also been perplexed by Marlon Brando's performance in the film, but it's actually one of his very best turns on screen, albeit improvised and close to running off the rails. His few moments on screen (even in the somewhat unnecessary scene plopped into the Redux version) there's enough conviction in what he's saying- and what perhaps isn't said- that makes the trip down the river worthwhile on an intellectual and poetic level. And making up the bulk of the film are delirious turns by Robert Duvall (a Oscar nominated turn he should've won), Martin Sheen as the Captain with almost too much to ponder in an ever increasing state of everything but him being insane; character actors like Sam Bottoms, Frederic Forrest and 14 year-old Laurence Fishburne have some of the best work they've ever done. And it goes without saying that Dennis Hopper comes close to stealing any scene he's in, for better or worse, with the most to say in rambling, yet coherent words.

Every time I watch this film (and mostly the original version which is what first drew me in completely as opposed to the very good if muddled Redux version) I am astounded with how operatic everything is, and how the variations on the madness and chaos of Vietnam is put together. Of course one can give adulation to Coppola for this as he completed it without totally going off the deep end or possibly dying, and his talents are pulled to their richest peaks here as a storyteller and director of actors. But it can't be said enough how much I can't get enough of Vittorio Storaro's cinematography, which has in part come close to perfect for this kind of epic film. The music is perfectly eerie and insidious, with the Doors song used for one of my favorite iconic scenes in the movies (both of them). Walter Murch's editing- which apparently was what saved the film from being a four-hour disaster- makes the action move when it needs to and for individual shots to get their due. And even the production design is remarkable and, to the extent it goes to, original in its partial translation of both Conrad's fiction and the unfortunate realities of life on the river.

If you haven't seen it yet, in short, get off your ass and get a copy; it might cause a kind of shell-shock for a viewer after first taking it all in, but it has some of the purest, most rewarding bits of cinema ever to come out of that all-too-brief American new-wave of the 1970's.
Possibly one of the greatest films ever made
Loosely based on Conrad's Heart of Darkness' This is a stunning,disturbing and even sometimes humorous look at the insanity of war and mankind's dark side. As well as being one of the greatest war films ever made it is also a study of insanity similar to 'Aguirre Wrath of God' (1973) and is one of only about 3 films that totally stunned me when I first saw it. Brilliantly staged and both chilling and memorizing it delivers amazing action and characters where we we see the animal that lurks in all of us and, in Kilgore in particular, we see the ultimate human insanity: the fact that we deep down enjoy killing and destruction.
The REDUX version…
'This is the end' sings Jim Morrison as choppers criss-cross the screen. No, Jim, it's just the beginning. The beginning of a 202-minute, drug-fuelled Vietnam war epic that follows a group of US soldiers upriver, deep into enemy territory, where they witness madness, come to realise the futility of their conflict, and are reminded of the heart of darkness that beats in all men. And like their mission, it's extremely hard going at times.

Directed by Francis Ford Coppola, this wild '70s classic starts off brilliantly, with war weary Captain Willard (Martin Sheen) being sent on a covert mission to assassinate renegade Colonel Kurtz (Marlon Brando), whose behaviour and methods are proving an embarrassment to the US army. An early set-piece—an air attack on a Vietcong village to the strains of Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries—is hugely impressive, boding well for the rest of the film. The genius continues with Robert Duvall's unforgettable performance as bonkers Lieutenant Colonel Bill Kilgore, while a jungle encounter with a tiger, and a visit by some Playboy playmates to boost moral only add to the fun.

Unfortunately, once the group of soldiers arrive at a French plantation, Apocalypse Now Redux becomes as bloated and unintelligible as its out-of-shape, mumbling star Brando: the action slows down to a snail's pace, and the vast amount of narcotics consumed by cast and crew becomes more than evident, the film turning into a dull psychedelic haze of drug-fuelled weirdness. Dennis Hopper, as a crazed photo journalist, is particularly spaced out, acting like he's single-handedly snorted the entire cocaine supply of the Philippines. This half of the film, as Hopper might say, is a real drag, man.

If I ever decide to watch Apocalypse Now again, which I think is unlikely, I'll be sure to watch the original theatrical version. Many think it is better; even if that isn't the case, it's definitely shorter.

7.5/10 for everything that happens before the plantation scene; 2.5/10 for the rest. So that's an average of 5/10.
A true masterpiece
First of all, if you haven't seen this movie you've been wasting your time watching others. I highly recommend this film to anyone who likes cinema. It is violent, complex and long, but nothing is gratuitous. So if you haven't seen it, stop reading this commentary (yep, SPOILERS AHEAD) and do yourself a favor.

This movie is one of those war classics that don't focus so much on the war, kind of like Stanley Kubrick's "Paths of Glory". It follows Willard's journey into Cambodia, into his very own soul and into madness. His search for Kurtz teaches him that the man he was sent to kill knows much more about the war than those who are in charge. By the end of the film, Willard has become Kurtz, sharing his madness. But what the generals call insanity turns out to be the clairvoyance that only a man who has seen the "horror" can possess.

I think "Apocalypse Now" is by far superior to Conrad's short story, "Heart of Darkness", from which it is freely adapted. They share the same construction but while Conrad's story tends to be too slow until Willard reaches Kurtz, Coppola's film is never boring. This is probably due to the fact that Willard's companions have greater roles in the film. Each of the characters on board the boat is interesting in his own way. Of course, the acting is responsible for this, Kilgore and the photojournalist are two great minor characters.

Visually, the movie is beautiful, the cinematography gets more more and more beautiful as the film goes on. The stylised lighting is so stunning, especially towards the end.

Last but not least, Martin Sheen and Marlon Brando's performances are perfect. Sheen's minimalist approach reflects Willard's empty and goalless life while Brando's acting and Coppola's directing make Kurtz one of the most captivating characters in the history of cinema.

Apocalypse Now is simply one of those movies everybody should watch.

My All Time Favourite 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
Version vs. Version
I have to admit, the first and only six times I saw the original version of this film (not "Redux"), I fell asleep during the film. I was convinced that the original film was made catastrophically unwatchable by the muddled and misguided editing. Several of my friends were angry to the respect that I could actually fall asleep to the "best film ever", in their opinion. As a result, I was relieved when I found out that there was going to be a release of a new version to theatres, a "director's cut", if you will. I purposely waited until it was released on DVD to watch it, and turned the English subtitles on, and I was glad, because I remember lots of the dialog being lost in the original mix (as I think it is also in this as well), but I feel the subtitles help you get through it. You see, I am the kind of person who likes director's cuts, uncensored versions, restored with new footage films, and even letterbox versions, basically the best way a film is intended. There are some exceptions to the rules, like when different editing processes are used, such as "Star Wars: A New Hope", which I still think was a mistake that George Lucas didn't correct some of the very noticeable errors in digital vs. analog editing and prints (i.e. he really should have either re-filmed the original Jabba-the-Hut & Han Solo conversation, instead of a digital re-creation and insertion/replacement of an analog filming of someone different {Jabba}, or just kept the scene cut indefinitely), or when studios take control of films and try to make their own edit and commercial cuts, which is almost always monstrous, just as I've heard with Terry Gilliam's "Brazil". To summarize, it is possible for someone who has issues with this original film to like the "Redux" version, if it is for the reasons as I stated, because I feel that "Apocalypse Now Redux" actually is a better film than the original "Apocalypse Now". Yes, I am bold enough to say it. I am positive that this will offend people who think the original cut is the "best film ever", and I know it is even probable they won't like -this- version, but I don't care about that, just like I didn't rate this version 5-stars, or even think of it as the "best film ever". This film clearly travels the waters between pure evil and insane genius. This is the only version worth watching. 8/10
Excellent Vietnam War film
The film's opening scene alone is worth the price of the DVD - the haunting image of helicopters flying low over a jungle that is suddenly engulfed by an explosion of napalm is not easily forgotten, but Coppola's real genius lies in the the overlaying of a soundtrack that immediately evokes the time and place of these events - The Door's The End (surely the epitome of 60's psychedelia) providing a drugged-up anaesthetic to the violence of the images on the screen.

Based on Joseph Conrad's novel Heart of Darkness, Apocalypse Now follows an American soldier travelling upriver into the depths of a Vietnamese tribal culture which seems to become more and more savage. Captain Willard (Martin Sheen) is sent on a confidential mission by the US army to eliminate Colonel Walter Kurtz (Marlon Brando). Kurtz, once one of the finest officers the army had seen, has apparently lost all sense of reality and has gathered his own private Vietnamese army deep in the jungle.

Early in Willard's mission we witness one of film's most powerful scenes; an attack by US helicopter gunships on a Vietnamese village. We see the simple way of life in the village as the helicopters appear on the horizon, with their on-board loudspeakers blasting out Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries. Robert Duvall's psychopathic US officer gives remorseless orders to gun down the women and blow up the bridges. This scene is starkly real yet magnificent to watch, and leaves a lasting impression on the viewer. Few films have portrayed the chaos and randomness of war so clearly or so shockingly.

As Willard progresses further up the river the film becomes more and more surreal and foreboding, and we begin to realise that Kurtz has experienced something which has led to his 'madness'. This all becomes apparent in the philosophical, spaced-out ending in which Willard finally finds Kurtz's jungle sanctuary.

Apocalypse Now should not be seen as an overview of the Vietnam War; it is instead a film about one man's journey into darkness, and about the people he meets and the events he witnesses on the way. There are no heroes in this film – just ordinary (and not so ordinary) people trying to survive the best way they can. It recognises that each soldier is different and that each has a story: one young soldier is shown dying while a letter from his mother is read aloud, another soldier screams hysterically as he forced to get off a helicopter and go into war, while Robert Duvall's character famously describes his love of 'the smell of napalm in the morning'. While the viewer is left in no doubt as to the horrors of war, Coppola does not set out to create a sentimental account of 'war being hell'.

While immersed in the breathtaking sound and visuals I have to pinch myself to remember that this film was made in the 70s. It is still as technically spectacular as any film I have ever seen. Ignore the hype surrounding the gimmick of 3D; the realness of the visuals in Apocalypse Now has a far stronger effect. The film is one of the most important and pioneering in history; without it the modern war film would be very different.

It seems a pity that every film more than a few months old is confined to the small screen. Is cinema not the ultimate way to view a film? Imagine only being able to read books or listen to songs released in 2011. There are dozens of forgotten films screaming out for a re-release, from Once Upon a Time in the West to Blade Runner. The magic of acting legends and veteran directors should be seen the way it was meant to be seen. Do not miss the re-release of Apocalypse Now for the world.
To Much Genius to Handle
I'm a 16 yr old teenager and i gotta say that this movie straight out fried my brains. Someone told me that this movie was said to be the most realistic thing to the Vietnam War and i can understand why. The madness of it all just scars you, it makes you really think. The chaos is to much for the mind. After i watched this movie i just sat there in silence and thought "..........woah........". This is film-making outside the box. Martin Sheen is brilliant and takes us on the journey with him, the boat crew is great each of them is an individual, Marlon Brando is just mind-blowing, scared me to death, I was left in suspense every scene in case he had another outburst of rage.

This isn't a movie where you say to yourself "i need to kill some time, so i'll watch it", this isn't a movie to watch with a bunch of friends (maybe if you're high). No. You really have to prepare yourself for this. Before you watch this movie, set up some snacks, drinks, sit back and observe the pure experience that is Apocalypse Now and watch as you experience a trip so intense that afterward's you won't be able to think straight for the next hour.

Coppola conveyed the drama and spectacle of this truly outstanding film…
After the success of the first two 'Godfather' films in 1972 and 1974 respectively, Francis Ford Coppola embarked on an ambitious attempt to bring home the reality of the war in Vietnam, which had concluded with the fall of Saigon to the Vietcong in 1975… The plot was loosely based on the book 'Heart of Darkness,' a story by Joseph Conrad about Kurtz, a trading company agent in the African jungle who has acquired mysterious powers over the natives…Coppola retains much of this, including such details as the severed heads outside Kurtz's headquarters and his final words, "The horror… the horror…"

In the film, Sheen plays an army captain given the mission to penetrate into Cambodia, and eliminate, with "extreme prejudice," a decorated officer who has become an embarrassment to the authorities… On his journey up the river to the renegade's camp he experiences the demoralization of the US forces, high on dope or drunk with power…

Although, as a result of cuts forced on Coppola, the film was accused of incoherence when first released, it was by the most serious attempt to get to grips with the experience of Vietnam and a victorious reinvention of the war film genre… In 1980 the film won an Oscar for Best Cinematography and Best Sound…

"Apocalypse Now" was re-released in 2001 with fifty minutes restored… As a result, the motion picture can now be seen as the epic masterpiece it is…
See Also
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