MOVIE REVIEW: “Apocalypse Now” stars Martin Sheen (The Departed , Badlands), Marlon Brando (The Godfather, On the Waterfront), Robert Duvall (Jack Reacher , The Judge ), Frederic Forrest (The Conversation, Falling Down), Sam Bottoms (The Outlaw Josey Wales, Seabiscuit), Laurence Fishburne (The Matrix, Mystic River), Albert Hall (Malcolm X, Major Payne), Dennis Hopper (Easy Rider, Blue Velvet), G.D. Spradlin (Ed Wood, The Godfather: Part II), Scott Glenn (The Hunt for Red October, The Silence of the Lambs), and Harrison Ford (Blade Runner, Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back). It is directed by Francis Ford Coppola (The Godfather, The Conversation), who also wrote it with John Milius (Dirty Harry, Red Dawn ).
Captain Benjamin Willard (Sheen) is sent on a mission to kill renegade Colonel Walter Kurtz (Brando) who has been deemed “insane” and is a threat to the American military at the height of the Vietnam War.
I’ve been wanting to tackle this film for a while now, being that it is one of the more highly talked about pieces of cinema in the cinephile community. And who wouldn’t talk about it? Frances Ford Coppola depicts humanity through the lens of the Vietnam War and pulls the exceptional talent of Martin Sheen, Marlon Brando, and Robert Duvall onboard to perform it. Come on, son. It’s clearly a recipe for success (albeit the supposed nightmare of a production it turned out to be for Coppola).
I chose a late night to watch this one, which led to some interesting results. Ever see a movie riding along the line of half awake, half asleep? Things get… pretty wild. What’s even better is just how hypnotic of a film “Apocalypse Now” is. It’s a descent into madness; the peeling back of humanity to expose the monstrosity of it. As our characters travel deeper into the war zone of Vietnam, the crazier things get. And my goodness, does it make a man think. There’s a few methods to approaching war, and the topic of what deems a person “mad” or a murderer is brought into question. Sheen plays a captain caught in the middle of it all, and we soon find out just how messed up war is (if we had any reason to doubt beforehand).
Firstly, is must be expressed just how fantastically shot this feature is. It’s marvelous. The scale is out of this world. You’ve got dialogue happening between two characters while helicopters are blowing up tree lines in the background. It’s a chaotic, beautiful mess of epic proportions, meticulously planned and brilliantly lit to portray such a wild story. I thoroughly enjoyed watching it unfold, and the decisions made when executing a scene visually. Back in film school, we had to do some lighting recreation assignments, and two of them were from “Apocalypse Now.” I worked on one of them, and boy was it tough to recreate. Seeing it again within the context of the story was fun.
Secondly, the acting. Need I say more? I guess I should. Coppola knows how to bring together a large ensemble, and man does he go all out with this one. Sheen, Brando, Duvall, a very young Laurence Fishburne, Dennis Hopper, and Harrison Ford. Geez. They all chose the right project to work on. All of the performances knock it out of the park, bringing a raw, natural feel of this war and what comes with it. I haven’t really seen Sheen act in many features, and I must say… he’s spectacular. Quite a weird hero to watch traverse this journey. We’re seeing it through his eyes and can’t help but feel sorry for the guy.
Thirdly, the music is just too good. Great classics, right up my alley. And the score behind it? Eerie stuff. The kind that makes your skin crawl. It adds texture to the creepy set pieces and edginess the story presents. Sadly, I can’t find it on Spotify to re-listen to. But, I can always just rewatch the movie.
Lastly, we have to talk about the story. As I’ve said before, it’s a maddening tale that digs at the truth in a horrific way. They break humanity down to the point of no return; at that point, all is revealed. It’s haunting, foreboding, and leaves you quiet. Granted, I was passing out toward the end (around the point of Brando’s four minute monologue) which made things tough. But at the end of the day, I walked away very satisfied with what I’ve seen. I didn’t necessarily feel sad for the soldiers who died on screen, but I did stare in horror at some of the acts committed. The thought of being in Vietnam during that time, fighting a war that couldn’t be won… it’s awful.
Coppola and crew didn’t set out to tell a Vietnam War story. They wanted to depict the loss of humanity; the broken nature of who we are in the face of war, and just how blurred the lines are when talking about the cause one is fighting for. I thoroughly enjoyed this movie, for its cinematography, performances, editing, and lighting. It’s a marvelous picture that, if you haven’t seen it, should definitely check out. FINAL SCORE: 97%= Juicy Popcorn
This movie has been inducted into The Juicy Hall of Fame.
Here is the trailer: