Apocalypse Now (1979)

Apocalypse Now (1979)
  • Time: 153 min
  • Genre: Drama | War
  • Director: Francis Ford Coppola
  • Cast: Martin Sheen, Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall


Vietnam, 1969. Burnt out Special Forces officer Captain Willard is sent into the jungle with top-secret orders to find and kill renegade Colonel Kurtz who has set up his own army within the jungle. As Willard descends into the jungle, he is slowly over taken by the jungle’s mesmerizing powers and battles the insanity which surrounds him. His boat crew succumbs to drugs and is slowly killed off one by one. As Willard continues his journey he becomes more and more like the man he was sent to kill.


  • Francis Ford Coppola’s epic (and when I say epic, I mean bigger than epic) war film about Vietnam is considered one of the greatest films ever made and after rewatching it for the I-don’t-know-how-many time, I am still blown away by the impact it has on me. The film has a storied production, it took 16 months to film and many years to edit, but the film has also influenced pop culture in a way that no other film before or since has done so. The main theme at play is the insanity of war and how that insanity affects the soldiers who fight.

    Captain Ben Willard (Martin Sheen) is sent on a mission up the Nung River, where he must locate and kill Walter E. Kurtz (Marlon Brando), a rogue US Army Colonel. Willard is escorted up the river in a Navy PBR led by Chief (Albert Hall) and crewed by famous surfer Lance (Sam Bottoms), Chef (Frederic Forrest) and Mr Clean (Laurence Fishburne).

    Aside from being one of the greatest films ever made, Apocalypse Now is also one of the biggest films ever made, not in terms of budget, but more physical scale. Some of the set pieces are truly awe inspiring. There is of course the famous scene in which an air cavalry unit led by Lieutenant Kilgore (Robert Duvall) assaults a river village while Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries” is blasted from loudspeakers. But rewatching it this time I noticed a few others which really amazed me and I’ve seen this movie on the big screen. There is a huge night scene where the crew come across an American outpost under attack from Vietnamese soldiers. The number of explosions and the performance of Sam Bottoms in this scene is amazing.

    Read the full review at http://www.thatothermovieblog.blogspot.com.au

  • This film is massive and controversial, a one-of-its-kind which would have defeated almost any other director. And judging by the insurmountable problems plaguing on-set shootings and post-production, it is a miracle that it even got made.

    Directed by multiple Oscar-winning filmmaker of The Godfather (1972) and The Godfather Part II (1974), this Cannes Golden Palm winner marks the last high point of Francis Ford Coppola’s career whose movies in the 1980s and 1990s are uncharacteristically poor.

    Filmed in Philippines, shooting was to be wrapped up within sixteen weeks. But it took almost a year, overrunning tight budgets, and sucking the morale of everyone involved. Lead actor Martin Sheen suffered a near-fatal heart attack and Marlon Brando turned up overweight and unprepared.

    A typhoon also hit the filming site, destroying most of the sets. The chaotic production of the film is as legendary as the film itself and is documented in the acclaimed documentary – Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker Apocalypse (1991).

    Loosely adapted from Joseph Conrad’s novel “Heart of Darkness”, Coppola shares the screenwriting task with John Milius, and is nominated for an Oscar here. They capture the horrors and futility of war through the weary eyes of Captain Willard (Martin Sheen) who is assigned the precarious mission to find renegade Colonel Kurtz (Marlon Brando) and “terminate (him) with extreme prejudice”.

    Disguised as an adventure set during the Vietnam War, Apocalypse Now is a haunting trip into hell. Both hypnotic and at times repulsive, the film has its fair share of flaws, but it remains to be perhaps the most powerful war picture ever made.

    Besides an excellent display by Sheen, and the underappreciated performance by Brando, the other star performer is Robert Duvall who plays Colonel Kilgore whose line “I love the smell of napalm in the morning” is a classic. Slightly charismatic but mostly mental, Kilgore represents the ideal that ‘to be loony in a world of madness is to be sane.’

    His order of a raid on a Viet Cong controlled coastal village in the second quarter of the film is a tour de force, an unforgettable set piece in war cinema which combining with Wagner’s “The Ride of the Valkyries”, stunning cinematography and immaculate editing of visuals and sound gives viewers an overwhelming sense of awe, that they are witnessing something great.

    Apocalypse Now is made up of three major acts – the pre-mission, the journey, and the confrontation with Kurtz. It is the last act that sums up the whole meaning of Coppola’s vision; a surrealistic, almost nightmarish encounter with a monster in his lair. Yet this very beast cajoles Willard and us into his labyrinth of philosophical thoughts, urging us to understand the reasons he has become the way he is, yet at the same time deflecting the absolute truth away.

    The best film to ever capture the reality of ‘Nam, Apocalypse Now is in my opinion a more potent picture than the three films that are always compared with – Michael Cimino’s The Deer Hunter (1978), Oliver Stone’s Platoon (1986), and Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket (1987).

    Coppola has built such a staggering piece of cinema that its status as the top draw of its genre is rarely threatened…that is until Steven Spielberg crashed the party in 1998 with the visceral Saving Private Ryan, my favourite war movie of all-time.

    GRADE: A+ (10/10 or 5 stars)
    More reviews: http://www.filmnomenon2.blogspot.sg/

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