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Apocalypse Now!
Theatrical release: August 15, 1979

Starring: Marlon Brando
Actors: Martin Sheen Robert Duvall Frederic Forrest 
Director: Francis Ford Coppola 
Based on the novel: "Heart of Darkness" by Joseph Conrad
Rated: R (MPAA) for disturbing violent images, language, sexual content and some drug use.
Run Length: 153 min

Reviewed by Peter Veugelaers Ó 2001
- Who said they don't make em like they used to?

 Apocalypse Now stands out because of a few powerful sequences and characters: a battle sequence at the beginning set to Wagner’s music; Robert Duvall’s egotistical and farcical Colonel Kilgore who would sooner surf during battle, and celebrate the war; the climax at the mouth of the river highlighted by Willard’s confrontation with Marlon Brando’s Kurtz; and the moody surreal atmosphere that explores man’s heart of darkness.

 It is not just Vittorio Storano’s moody atmospheric photography that makes Apocalypse Now highly textured. It is mainly because Apocalypse Now is brooding and introverted – it looks to the heart of the matter, hearts encumbered with war. It asserts how and why war is self-destructive and does so more powerfully.

 This is a lamentation about the Vietnam War, war itself and human nature. Based on Joseph Conrad’s novel Heart of Darkness, Orson Welles wanted to be the first to film the book. When financial limitations enabled him, thirty years later director Francis Ford Coppola translates Conrad’s vision into a compelling allegory of inhumanity.

 As seen through the eyes of Captain Willard (Martin Sheen), war is an ever-decreasing circle. While in Saigon, during the Vietnam War, he is awaiting his next mission. When approached by the U.S. military he is assigned to “terminate with extreme prejudice” a subversive Colonel. Once a celebrated military man, E. W Kurtz (Marlon Brando) has taken control of a community of Vietnamese. Kurtz uses “unsound” methods to eliminate dissidents and to contain the tyrannical status quo.

 Yet, as Willard heads towards his destination to assassinate Kurtz, the irony is not lost. The voice over narration contemplates why Kurtz is being singled out for the day of destruction, when there is enough insanity and murder going on all around. Scene follows scene portraying Willard’s increasing revelation of Kurtz’s character, his victories and descent into madness and maybe genius.

 Especially witty is the film’s ascent into farce, which works as a powerful way of communicating the defeatism of violence. Robert Duvall as Colonel Kilgore takes centre stage as a war-mongering eccentric. His distracted interest in surfing the Vietnam coast underlines this war’s self-destructiveness. The young soldiers, as puppets of a careless military and government, happily pull triggers on the innocence. With all this despair there is no room for hope. War has been portrayed and philosophised, made subject of ridicule, but has not been comprehended. Under these circumstances, naturally the medicine for this predicament is death – the recipe Kurtz believes is the answer. There is no redemption from war according to this film and no forgiveness for the instigators of American involvement in the Vietnam War.

The MovieNutz Store!

Apocalypse Now
Marlon Brando / VHS / R / 1979
Your Price: $11.49

Apocalypse Now
Letterbox Collectors Edition
Marlon Brando / VHS / R / 1979
Your Price: $21.49

Apocalypse Now Redux
Marlon Brando / DVD / R / 2001
Your Price: $23.99