Apocalypse Now (1979) Redux

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dir. Francis Ford Coppola.

Apocalypse Now is a film that strips back everything. Set in Vietnam during the war we are introduced to a central character on the brink of self destruction who relies on war to get through life. Then one day, he gets one more mission, one last order. The mission is to terminate former officer turned rogue dictator, Marlon Brando. The further our central character goes, the more we doubt the true nature behind his mission and his safety.

One of the main themes in the film is hierarchy and more precisely, the film always tells us that there is always someone with more power further up the chain of command. Moreover, one of the great questions the film asks is ‘does power corrupt?’ or ‘should we have power?’. The film cleverly pits two powers against each other, each with their mysterious motives, each as ‘evil’ as each other, making the film more realistic in that regard

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Martin Sheen as Cpt. Willard

Coppola explores the human mind under incredible stress and scrutiny. The film closely examines the ethics behind war through the impact it has on the characters. War ultimately breaks the films ‘antagonist’, turning him into a military dictator. However, Coppola has constructed a story on conflict which questions the need and consequences for war on the human mind and life.  Critics often question who the ‘bad guy’ actually is; is it the decorated war hero turned psycho-path? Or the men who desperately want him dead?

Marlon Brando plays Colonel Kurtz, a mysterious and ambiguous enigma. Kurtz has a number of fascinating monologues during the film and depending on your individual views, they can be seen in several different lights.  This is a factor throughout the film, critics have always come out of the film with different, contrasting messages. The divisiveness of the project is what makes it so intriguing, the question remains however; what message(s) will YOU take out of the film? Please don’t hesitate to share your thoughts in the comments!

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Many critics have linked the film to George Orwell‘s novel ‘1984’ and for good reason, both works question the nature and power of the status-quo. Apocalypse Now however, gives a theatrical autopsy on the motivations and actions of those with too much power. The film, in essence, makes us question whether power is too much for the human mind to control.

Often labelled as the best war movie of all time, I suggest watching this picture in the dark with plenty of quiet, easy to consume food. I would strongly suggest watching the improved ‘redux’ cut of the film with deleted and extended scenes making the film flow much more fluidly. Remember though, this cut is nearly three hours, however you won’t regret it.

Notable Critics

“The film has one of the most haunting endings in cinema, a poetic evocation of what Kurtz has discovered, and what we hope not to discover for ourselves”  Roger Ebert

“A 16-week shoot in the Philippines became 238 days of principal photography between early 1976 and summer 77…The Philippine Army kept recalling its helicopters in the middle of takes to chase Marxist rebels. A typhoon destroyed sets, forcing a hiatus”  Angie Errigo – Empire

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