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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
Why I rated it a 1/10
I would have given this a 9/10 as it is a superb movie.

But showing heartless animal snuff to visualize heartless human war is sarcasm at best. It would totally be fitting and OK if it were special FX, but it weren't. Mr. Coppola even "went overboard" with "a truckload of animals to slaughter". No sir. That's not OK.

Special-FX would have been believable enough to "shock" and to show the similarity between the sacrifice of the buffalo and of Kurtz. The film would have not suffered an inch of credibility, nor a tiny fragment of it's impact. The contrary would have been more likely.

And no, I'm no fighter for animal rights and omnivore myself, but this is USELESS. A heartless Mr. Coppola trying to convince me, the viewer, that war is senseless and what not. He didn't even understand his own vision himself as it seems by such a behavior.

I'm stopping here, because no one is ever reading this. But if, here is the reason why I down voted this. And usually I won't do that just to express my opinion or hate of a genre or whatever.
2014-01-12
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 War for your Soul
Spoilers herein.

Much has been made of the personal risks taken by this filmmaker and crew, and the mapping to the metaphor of war:

Coppola, already rich and famous for the lush but pointless `Godfather' films, reaches into his soul and decides to risk it to do something important. He deliberately chooses Conrad's metaphor of personal journey, and creates a multi-layered structure: the sense of Man in society; the `reason' of War, colonial wars and the specifics of Vietnam; the meeting of darkness of self at the end of the hero's journey; and at the lowest layer, Coppola's own quest for import as an artist.

When I saw this over a couple decades back, I thought it a failure: earnestness does not equal art; commitment does not deliver skill; Italian passion outraces German nihilism.

But now, with the `restored' footage, I have a completely different take. I still think it a failure overall, but with some powerful images. As with the Doors, its aspirations were too large for the ability, the vision too grand for the reach. But now with the passage of time, the metaphor has had a polar switch.

Twenty years ago, the War was a simple affair: confusing at the bristles, jaded selfishness at the handle. With the passage of time as we learn more, the War has `become' incredibly more complex and unfathomable. Now with the film: it started life as huge, unfocused mess. Over a long period, with radical paring and the addition of a very competent framework of sound, something resulted. Unfocused still, but powerful enough to engage. Over time and repeated viewings, this work has been overgrown by personal probings, and integrated into the imaginative landscape like an incompetent building becoming a fond element of the cityscape. So as the war becomes less pegged in our minds, this film becomes more comprehensible, more whole.

With repeated personal handling, this film has become `true.' Think of this: it now has such a clear center that the filmmaker can `enhance' that message. It is now so coherent, it begs for addition. And the three main additions are so, so very apt and self-referential:

-- The French plantation takes its reason to be from the mere fact that it has been. That is precisely what this film has become: a colonizer of our minds that now makes its own sense to be there.

-- The playmates. Sex -- even exploitative sex -- domesticates.

-- The extra exposure of Brando. Here was a tiger, a man whose presence tore through our minds, who changed the world, who mesmerized. He went down his own personal river before this film and was defeated. Here he shows up in a character who is precisely the actor (with a wildeyed acolyte Hopper similarly spanning fiction and reality). Wasn't clear when the film was new, but is now. These are not the winners we see, but the losers. The horror.

To prepare for this redux, I watched the three `Wallace and Gromit' films. Here also was a personal vision, explored at first with extreme commitment, at high cost in the face of detractors. Working by himself for 7 years produced the first film. It was shockingly weird. The second (and probably the best) was a low-budget collaboration with one other monk. As with `Apocalypse,' this film invented itself, by charm insinuated itself into the familiar as if God had put it there all along. Then by the third film, with scores of people, the magic is transformed to cultural momentum.

But there is hope: `Apocalypse' hangs on the War, and though that metaphoric connection is severed, it still stays on the shelf we first placed it: as a war movie. And there are other war movies. And since films are seldom about reality and instead about other films, we can rely on others to give us distance from this foreign invader. Two very much more skilled filmmakers in particular: Kubrick and Malick. Rely on them.
2002-01-16
The Dictionary Definition of Overrated
I saw this film once per decade in my first thirty years on Earth, and I've decided I don't need or want to see it again. It's a good film, and interesting from start to finish, but for me its I first saw this movie as a kid, and I was impressed (if rather confused). I had no idea it was supposed to be the best film ever, so it never occurred to me that anyone might think that.

Next time I saw the film I was in my teens, and I'd read Joseph Conrad's novel Heart of Darkness - thus, I was less impressed. By this point I was a little more into movies, so I'd seen more critically acclaimed classics too - another contributing factor to the film's diminishment in my eyes.

The last time I saw it was in my mid-to-late twenties, and I was honestly disappointed. When I next had the chance to watch the movie, a year or so ago, I passed.

Fans of Coppola and lovers of this movie will be ready by now to condemn me as a moron or philistine, but I truly believe this to be an overrated Hollywood mess.

It fails as an adaptation because of all the extraneous business: it's no longer about a man's journey to find Kurtz, it's about a seething mass of American national obsessions over Vietnam, war, race and imperialism.

Also, unlike Conrad's spare, to-the-point writings, the film deals almost exclusively in hyperbole. There are quiet moments, but they ring false in amidst the craziness.

As other reviews have pointed out, it's not really a war movie. However, its hard to see it as such since every scene is more or less obsessing over Vietnam.

Other reviews have also pointed out that it's not meant to be realistic, but I question that perception. It looks to me as if it *is* intended to be realistic in many ways - and the fact that it isn't is another of the film's failings in my eyes.

The racism of the film is also uncomfortable to me. Where Conrad's novel embodied the racism of its era (in which a white European did indeed have trouble viewing black Africans as human), this comparatively recent film embodies modern American racism by treating its nonwhite extras like so many cattle (no reference intended).

None of them have personalities or recognisable aims and objectives - they're seen only as faceless savages, as dangerous enemies, a mindless force which can be harnesses either by clever Communists or manipulative madmen.

The key performances are more interesting than actually good. Sheen isn't outstanding, certainly not at his best, and Fishburne is way underused. The big disappointment, however, is Marlon Brando. After such a long journey, so many death and traumas, its awful to realise that their objective is this old tubby loon who waddles around mumbling and being worshipped by unconvincing "savages".

I've never been a fan of Brando, who for me is like an older, fatter Al Pacino. He knows no restraint, and while many film lovers rate him all his performances seem pretty much the same to me... in that these are actors whose personalities get in the way of their acting. They always seem like themselves, whether its appropriate or not.

It's probably fair to point out that I'm not a Coppola fan, either. The phrase I used as a header here was originally something I said about The Godfather. Coppola's movies always come across bombastic and self-important, self-consciously "big" movies with heavy themes.

I do understand the film, and I appreciate that it has many moments of inspired cinematography and several truly amazing scenes. But for me, it never connects emotionally.

Too many characters and situations ring false. The structure is too messy, the use of pop music grates on my nerves, the plot-holes are increasingly apparent with every viewing, and to top it off I find the idea that this is adaptation of Conrad rather absurd. In many ways it's less true to the source than West Side Story is to Romeo and Juliet.

It's not a bad film, as such, but a deeply flawed film... and, from a personal point of view, sententious and unnecessary.
2008-08-19
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
Redux adds something(s),
Many of the added scenes explain certain parts of the older edit in a more natural and complete way.

For Example in the Original the bit where for whatever reason, previously holing him aloof, the crew at least makes a formal attempt to include Willard by offering him marijuana. He, of course refuses and shuts the curtain so he can get drunk (emphasizing his SpecOps/Officer Status) Disassociating himself from the crew and perhaps alleviating an awkward situation, by not fraternizing to much with the men.

It was exactly that the inclusion of Willard (by the crew) was unanticipated and unexplained that had always bugged me when I watched the original.

Now in Redux the conditions above are preceded by the "Flight of the Surfboard". Kilgore's attitude just begs Willard to flashback to his cadet days, and "misappropriate" Kilgores board. (Juvenile Pranks being of the finest military traditions) In short, stealing the surfboard is not at all out of character for Willard and the scene adds a logical progression of slightly greater camaraderie leading up to the scene where he rebuffs them.

Also the scene where they are all hiding under the trees with the helicopters overhead. All great stuff for male military type-bonding.

The addition of the scenes gives the crew a reason to be more inclusive and more positive about Willard. They think mebbe hes not such a bad officer. But Willard remembers his position, and that the crew are expendable tools that he may have to use to accomplish his mission, and remains aloof and gets drunk alone.

Best Vietnam movie of all time. Even if it has almost nothing to do with the war in specifics dealing almost exclusively with a single fictitious CovertOps mission and a few intersecting actions (both probable fiction(Kilgore) and potentially historically accurate(the Bridge)) As to the other extra scenes I found the Playboy scene's racist comments and connotations to be important enough to include. Also continues the classist regime. Chief, the middle-class black man wants a sista(Racist or Pride? Is there a difference?) Lance is lowerclass, but hes a cute white kid. Chef is lowerclass, but hes got a certain kind of charm. Clean, the lowerclass black man is shut out. Meanwhile, Willard is off in some private quarters with the third bunny as his right as officer and procurer (I think it was his deal)

Best Line of the Film:

the Roach "Yeah"
2006-07-05
In my opinion, Coppola's best work
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
2004-12-21
An unfocused trip
It took me a bit to nail down the reason for my less-than-fawning reaction to "Apocalypse Now" - after all, this movie's so damn revered - but, surprisingly, it's Martin Sheen's voyage up-river (which is really the bulk of the movie). I'm surprised as anyone, seeing as I generally dig his stuff. But his journey into Cambodia just tends to meander through the film. Sure, there are firefights mixed in, but none of this is ever as exciting or mysterious as the film's two most winning features: Robert Duvall and Marlon Brando. And they're only present for such a short time. Duvall is just such a larger than life sociopath; it doesn't hurt that he's at the forefront of the movie's wildest set piece, but he owns the screen. I'm fairly certain the man's ruined "Ride of the Valkyries" for me (hijacked, not soured). And Brando looms so large over the entire movie that, you're left wondering what kind of answers are coming when Sheen finally tracks him down. And it's a hallucinatory payoff, to be sure.

6/10
2015-05-14
Apocalypse Now Redux is the definitive film of the Vietnam War.
This is an apocalyptic vision of the hell of our contemporary world. The social criticism of our shallow, commercially oriented values is what makes this film an exceptional vision of the "war is hell" cliché, underscored by a mythical journey upriver to Cambodia by a special forces captain whose mission is to eliminate (with extreme prejudice) a rogue colonel, who's left behind the army's concepts of justice to create his own world. When I saw Apocalypse Now in 1980, I thought it was a deeply flawed masterpiece. In particular, I found the final segment of the journey with Brando, which encapsulates Conrad's Heart of Darkness, to be rather boring. I finally got around to seeing Apocalypse Now Redux and the flaws have been taken care of. Redux makes the movie an outright masterpiece, certainly among the top 100 films ever made. Brando's performance now seems full and complete, perhaps rather less mysterious, but much more profound. Martin Sheen is brilliant at the heart of one of the best acting ensembles ever assembled. It's great to spot a young Harrison Ford, Scott Glenn, etc. in early screen performances that suggest what fine actors they will eventually be recognized as. The work of Robert Duvall, Fred Forrest, Lawrence Fishburne and Sam Bottoms is greatly enhanced by the additional footage. If you've never seen this film, skip the original and head straight for Redux. I wish we could get a Gangs of New York Redux from Scorcese to fill in all the gaps in that deeply flawed potential masterpiece.
2006-03-24
Boring
This movie was filled with melodramatic acting, bad humor, horrible character development, no action, sub-par editing, awful music, and oh yes the Redux version is over 3 hrs long! I loathe this film, and will never understand its appeal. Come to think of it I'll never understand the appeal for the Godfather either. Give me Goodfellas any day. I think Francis Coppola is the most over rated Writer/Director of all time. Give me Robert Zemickis or Steven Spielberg and I'll be a happy little boy. Whatever "it" is that people see in his movies I will never understand. You know what I think... It was the 70's and everyone was on drugs. That must be the reason why everything was so weird. I know people are gonna respond to this and say "You just didn't get it." I got it. I got the whole stupid movie. And I thought it stunk.
2006-10-11
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