Apocalypse Now (1979)

The DailyView continues and in honor of Memorial Day, I decided to do some war films. I have never been a huge fan of war films, but there has always been one, in particular, that I wanted to see. It is a film that has been quoted by many and discussed by more. It is Francis Ford Coppola’s classic Apocalypse Now.

Already troubled U.S. Army Captain Willard (Martin Sheen) is recruited to go on a mission that ‘does not exist – nor will it ever exist’. The mission, head into Cambodia, find renegade Green Beret Colonel Walter Kurtz (Marlon Brando), whose army has been conducting unapproved missions against the Viet Cong. The army believes Kurtz has gone insane and they want Willard to eliminate the problem.

Willard, with a select crew, is placed on a U.S. navy patrol boat and sent up the Nung River. Along the way, Willard encountered a plethora of wild and odd ball characters showing the pressure of the war.

There is a brutality in Apocalypse Now that is like poetry. There is a feel to the scenes and it appeals to you on a internal basis. It is both beautiful and disturbing at the same time. The insanity of each encounter gives a different perspective on the war and the world around these men trying to exist within it.

Coppola has said that this film is not “about the Vietnam War, it is the Vietnam War.” He set out to create a film that showed how the Vietnam War was such a devastating blow to the psyche of the men involved in it. Even its initial protagonist, Apocalypse Now was a broken man dealing with his own PTSD as he searched for Kurtz. The more Willard learned about Kurtz, the more he wondered how a man like this could have gone insane or why the military would want a man so decorated assassinated.

What situation can push a man to do horrors to their fellow man? What does these men need to do to live with that knowledge?

Apocalypse Now is filled with amazing performances. Martin Sheen is excellent as Willard. Robert Duvall was the eccentric Lt. Colonel Bill Kilgore who was seemingly obsessed with surfing. Dennis Hopper was the photo journalist who has bought into Kurtz’s crazed cult. The film also included Harrison Ford, Laurence Fishburne, Albert Hall, Frederic Forrest, Scott Glenn, and Sam Bottoms.

There is a redux version of the movie, but I watched the original cut of Apocalypse Now. It is a long film, but every scene had its purpose and it fit together amazingly, especially considering the troubles the production faced.

Based loosely on Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, Coppola was able to keep everything together and create an epic war film that transcended the genre.

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