Apocalypse Now - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Apocalypse Now Reviews

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Super Reviewer
½ December 31, 2009
Coppola's all-time classic is an intense Vietnam War nightmare that sets out to portray with some of the most spectacular visuals the unfathomable horror and madness of war, following a man as he goes further and further in a harrowing descent into the very heart of darkness.
Super Reviewer
½ March 5, 2014
The way the film is shot is as searing as the Vietnamese heat; few films can compare to the intensity and quality of picturesque way it is shot accompanied with its great writing, and legendary direction.
Super Reviewer
May 8, 2007
A black ops assassin is sent into the jungles of South East Asia to hunt down and kill a one-time career military golden boy who has turned renegade and began operating outside of the chain of command. Francis Ford Coppola's dream-like journey through the horrors and absurdities of the Vietnam war, like 2001: A Space Odyssey before it, is more an experience than a story with any kind of strict middle, beginning and end. It's not the destination that's important. It's chock full of memorable performances from Martin Sheen's Willard who becomes fascinated with his target and shares more in common with him than he'd like to admit, through to Brando's towering presence as the rarely seen, shadow enshrouded god of war who has tired of the hypocritical "rules of engagement". Not forgetting Kilgore, who despite the long and illustrious career of Robert Duvall, will always be the character he is remembered for and the Ride Of The Valkyries sequence is one of the all-time greats of cinema. It has so many haunting, nightmarish images and the whole film is absolutely stunning to look at from beginning to end. Some may be left bemused by the rather free-form approach but it is certainly the most creative and provocative war film ever made.
Super Reviewer
June 8, 2014
Disturbing, epic, and expertly filmed, Apocalypse Now not only captures the horrors of war in brilliant, visually-stunning fashion, but it has a fascinating and suspenseful story to go along with it. All in all, the film soars due to its artistic choices (most specifically the cinematography) as well as its acting. It has its flaws--there are moments that drag--but it is a well-made, classic war film.
Super Reviewer
½ August 27, 2012
Shellshocked is a relevant word to describe how I felt after apocalypse now, what a stunning, beautifull, brutal film. A descent into madness that keeps you hooked.
Super Reviewer
July 30, 2012
So much hype surrounding this movie; its within the Top 250 list on IMDb, landed on countless "best movies" lists, AFI deemed it the 30th best movie of all time, and had a couple of quotes on the best quote lists by AFI. Finally, I laid my attention upon it. Did it turn out as expected? ...No.

I definitely respect the movie; I didn't particularly dislike it, but didn't particularly find it enjoyable/interesting either. DON'T HATE

Did I miss something here? Was my attention out-of-sorts when I watched it?
There has gotta be something that I missed here.

Gonna hafta give it a rewatch.

Noteworthy mentions:
- Spectacular cinematography
- Downright impeccable performances
- Masterful direction
- A peculiarly strange ending to a somewhat straight-forward narrative
- Boldly strong thematic undertones that crawl under the skin
Super Reviewer
June 9, 2012
Apocalypse Now is a dark, twisted, sad, and visually stunning look at the lives and thoughts of two profound and strange characters. Its prestigous reputation is well deserved.
Super Reviewer
February 24, 2011
This film is very strange to say the last. Some try to classify this as a war film. It's a war film in the sense that it happens to take place during the Vietnam, but considering the source material (this film is a re-imagining of Joseph Conrad's "Heart of Darkness" after all), it becomes pretty clear that this could have been set in any time period. On its own merits, it's best described as an examination of the dark side of human nature in the trippiest way possible. I find that last sentence to be a bit derogatory to the film, after all, trippy isn't the most respectable way to describe a masterpiece, but that's the only way I can put it without spoiling some of the better moments of the film. Everyone talks about the "Ride of the Valkyries" scene, but no one really talks about the chaos that occurs afterwards in terms of insane events. I won't spoil any of these events, because they had a very profound affect on me as result of NOT knowing what to expect. The final thing I'll say about this film is that the cinematography is some of the best in cinema and the fade shots are some of the best in cinema as well (and that's without considering that they were dissolved and faded using analog). This film is legendary for a reason. Even if you don't enjoy the film, you will be glad to have seen it for pop culture value.
Super Reviewer
October 5, 2011
An epic masterpiece that not only shows the horrors of war but the dark insanity that exists within the human soul. The movie masterfully captures the unforgiving chaos of war and its horrors. It is not just a movie about Vietnam War, it is an allegorical journey into the human soul. At times it feels more like a disturbing horror movie than a war movie. There are too many classic scenes to count. The helicopter attack on a Vietnamese village while "Ride of the Valkyries" is playing remains one of the greatest scenes in movie history. One of the biggest highlights of the film are the cast. Each actor gives one incredible and memorable performance after the other. Martin Sheen does a great job as Capt. Willard, a man who has been emotionally hardened by the Vietnam War. Robert Duvall is absolutely brilliant as Col. Kilgore, a man who has gotten so used to war that he actually enjoys it. Marlon Brando, for the little he is in it, makes Col. Kurtz one of the most disturbing characters in the history of film. The way Kurtz stays in the shadows a lot makes his character reminiscent of the morbid evil that exists in all of us. The soundtrack is also amazing. The way "The End" by The Doors is played over footage of a napalm strike is haunting yet mesmerizing at the same time. Francis Ford Coppola and his film crew literally went through hell trying to make this movie. All the trials faced by the filmmakers is chronicled in "Heart of Darkness". The fact that Coppola was still able to a turn out a piece of visionary filmmaking is amazing. Apocalypse Now remains a masterpiece that is a demonstration of art that is daring and un-compromising. Definitively one of my all time favorites.
Super Reviewer
April 26, 2007
Apocalypse Now is an amazing piece of cinema. It's really one of the finest films around and is the Citizen Kane of Vietnam movies. If Plan 9 From Outer Space is an example of the worst 'thinking on your feet and salvaging it later' type of filmmaking, this (as well as the original Star Wars) are prime examples of the best way of doing that. First of all, the cinematography in this film is heads and tails above all other war films. The color palette is rich and vibrant and the use of black is deep and unsettling. It's really quite stunning to look at, especially by today's standards. Second, the performances from everybody (not just Brando or Sheen) are bar none. Everybody is at the top of their game here. It's also wonderful to see actors like Harrison Ford, Robert Duvall and Laurence Fishburne pop up in the supporting cast. Third, the story is very engaging. I find myself not wanting to take my eyes off of the screen for even a second. The voice-over also works well and doesn't feel tired or burdensome at any point (like most voiceovers do). This film is definitely in my top ten favorites and if you haven't already then you owe it to yourself to go check it out.
Super Reviewer
August 15, 2011
Apocalypse Now is tied with Saving Private Ryan as my favorite war film ever made, and is just a pure work of genius in every way possible. The plot is a great one, it may be just about a man being assigned to kill a soldier gone rogue, but it is much more than that, the greatest thing about the film is by far the characters we are given, espically Benjamin Willaard and Colonel Kurtz as two of some of the greatest film characters I have ever seen, they both truly show the pure horrors and evil of war, and I would count this just a bit better than Full Metal Jacket, another Vietnam film. The cast is one of the best things about the movie, martin Sheen plays a incredible and emotional role that shows how tough war makes people. Marlon Brando is too evil too describe, and although he does not say much, it doesn't take much to say for this man to completely anger us with his evil. The Direction by Francis Ford Coppola is amazing and just proves he has made more masterpieces than just The Godfather trilogy. Apocalypse Now is by far the best Vietnam war film ever, and is also my favorite war film ever made (tied with Saving Private Ryan) and if you want a great masterpiece of a dramatic war film, I highly recommend this one.
Super Reviewer
½ September 15, 2011
WOW, amazing. Visually stunning, and one of (if not) the best war films ever made. I appreciated how it was able to switch from primarily a war film, to a psychological thriller at the end when he finds Col. Kurtz.......just an awesome film!
Super Reviewer
August 19, 2011
To describe how or why "Apocalypse Now" is like trying to describe why great art or other incredible films are so good. Francis Ford Coppola has produced yet another, and I don't use this word very often, "Masterpiece" with this harrowing, brutal, chilling look into something much, much deeper than just the Vietnam war.

Martin Sheen plays the second best character of his life, short only of that of the President, Captain Ben Willard, who is sent on a mission by two special ops soldiers to terminate, with extreme prejudice, Colonel Kurtz, an excellent soldier who has gone rogue and is leading a group of soldiers from both nations in Cambodia.

Willard makes his way up on a boat containing a handful of characters as they encounter many different things along the way, even more in the Redux and especially excellent extended edition, with Robert Duvall, Frederic Forrest, Samuel Bottoms and Dennis Hopper all making appearances.

The film itself was as a documentary charting the making of it once said, a "filmmakers apocalypse". One cast member lied about his age to be in the film, saying he was seventeen when he was thirteen. However by the time the film was released he was seventeen. Coppola struggled to complete the film after years and years, problems after problems and more, it was finally released to a slightly poor box office.

However the box office lies, as Coppola, the production team and the cast have created one of the greatest films of the twentieth century.

Sometimes people can say too much, but the basics of what make a good film are all there, and they are better than most of the rest.

The screenplay, also written by Coppola is a haunting, compelling, entertaining experience as the words seem so natural, as does the action that takes place on screen.

Add this to narration by another man, as Willard tells us the story, of both Kurtz and himself as we wind further up the river. It is gripping, beautiful, combined with poetry from the mouth of Kurtz.

The cinematography something to be proud of, whilst the haunting sequences of helicopter attacks mixed with the sound of Wagner, counter-balance the calm and surreal close ups of Willard as he narrates, whilst they fade into the next horror, re-inforcing the madness of the jungle and the world in which we are being taken.

The acting is all round good, but of course the credit must go to Sheen and Brando, who play their characters so well that we believe both men are mad and will snap at any moment.

But what makes "Apocalypse" so good isn't the fact that the technical aspect is spot on, it's the fact that although we are watching a film about Vietnam, we are actually observing a study in human madness.

A filmed look at how the horrors of war drive great men to madness as we see in the two central characters. Coppola does something which a film has not done for years and had not done for years before, we have been taken into the human psyche and able to understand the terrible insanity men experienced.

As I said earlier sometimes you can say too much about a great thing. I have tried my best to list and analyse the reasons why Coppola's masterpiece is a masterpiece, but the only way anyone can truly understand why is by watching it for yourselves.

I hardly ever give five stars, but there are no hesitations, and so it seems there are none for anyone else by acclaiming this truly magnificent film.

If you haven't already you must watch this film, but perhaps watch is the wrong word. You don't watch "Apocalypse Now" you experience it.

***** 5 Star
Daniel Mumby
Super Reviewer
November 27, 2009
When it comes to reviewing films, there are two kinds of masterpieces. One is the film in which every single scene is immaculately perfect, and your emotional involvement supports and compliments this perfection. The other, more contentious kind is a film which on paper is riddled with faults, but the experience of watching it is so intoxicating that all such faults can be forgiven or forgotten.

With war films, the first camp is defined by Full Metal Jacket and the second by Apocalypse Now. Where Stanley Kubrick's film is meticulously constructed and judged to clinical precision, Francis Ford Coppola's is simultaneously a bloated, meandering mess and one of the greatest films of all time. Full Metal Jacket is the more accessible and perhaps more rewarding, but on the big screen Apocalypse Now is nothing short of knockout, as all the elements of Coppola's epic collide in a full-on and frightening story of darkness, madness and war.

As with so many great films, the production history of Apocalypse Now leads us to believe that things should have turned out very differently. John Milius, who had written much of Clint Eastwood's dialogue in Dirty Harry, drafted a loose adaptation of Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness by the middle of 1969. Originally titled The Psychedelic Soldier, George Lucas was set to direct before being hired to helm American Graffiti. In 1974 the project came to Coppola, who had just seen both The Conversation and The Godfather Part II nominated for the Best Picture Oscar.

Shooting for the re-titled Apocalypse Now began in March 1976 and was scheduled to last for five months. Soon after shooting began, Harvey Keitel was replaced by Martin Sheen and in May the entire set was destroyed by Typhoon Olga. When filming resumed a month later, Marlon Brando turned up heavily overweight and completely bald; Coppola compensated by dressing him in black, shooting him in shadow and using a body double in the wide shots. While shooting the ending in 1977, Sheen suffered a heart attack and had to walk a quarter of mile to get medical attention. By the time Coppola finished editing the film for release in August 1979, Apocalypse Now was two years late and three times over budget.

If you attempted to write down all the things that are wrong with Apocalypse Now, it wouldn't take you long to get quite a big list. For a start, the film is too long - or at least, it feels too long. The story of Captain Willard travelling up the Nung River unfolds at a very leisurely pace, with every section of the river having some major significance in terms of plot or mood. There is no montage or time-lapse footage of the boat rapidly reaching the Cambodian border, and the longer it goes on the less sure you feel that Coppola actually knew where the story was going.

There is a very fine line in screenwriting between poetic and ponderous, and Apocalypse Now crawls along this line like the snail on the edge of a straight razor. The actual scenes of Brando reading poetry in the temple are dull; the fact that we can't always make out what he's saying annoys us at first, but after a few lines we couldn't care less. By the time you have reached the temple, you are more or less certain that there will be some kind of brutal final confrontation between Willard and Kurtz, so that even as you sit there soaking up T. S. Eliot, you wish that things would get a move on.

Then there is the problem of characters. Martin Sheen is absolutely terrific as Captain Willard, and in spite of his incoherence Marlon Brando manages to match him in the last truly good performance of his career. But as is the way with epics, a lot of the supporting cast don't get even half the screen time they deserve. When you've got a film featuring Harrison Ford, Robert Duvall and Dennis Hopper, you expect them to be on screen a lot. But only Duvall gets the screen time and the character depth he needs, with the other two becoming largely superfluous.

Finally, there are aspects of Apocalypse Now which reek of the indulgence present in New Hollywood and 1970s filmmaking in general. This is typified by Coppola's self-referential cameo as the director of a war documentary; Sheen walks into his shot at the river mouth, and he shouts: "Don't look at the camera! Keep on fighting!". If Coppola was making a point about the psychological role of a director, it's handled a lot more clumsily and self-importantly than Peeping Tom. Add in the sequence of a live cow actually being butchered and you have more than enough reason to dismiss this film.

So far, Apocalypse Now would seem like the Vietnam equivalent of Gone With the Wind: commendable for its scale and ambition, but over-long with too many characters and several questionable scenes. And yet, for all the truth in what I have said, none of it really matters. For Apocalypse Now is not a film to be dissected but to be experienced; it will burn its way into your synapses in a mixture of horror and wonder. Watching it is less like making a Swiss watch than walking into a cloud of hallucinogenic vapours. If you refuse to go with it, you won't get it, but if you do, it'll be one hell of a trip.

Instead of recreating the experience of Vietnam with a deliberate and calculated sense of hindsight, Apocalypse Now seeks to put the audience in the same place as the soldiers so they can decide how war felt and why men behaved the way they did. Because the script was written during the war, there is no attempt made by Coppola to lecture the audience one way or the other. There are no easy answers to the questions of right and wrong, and the film's slow, meandering tone is vital for us to soak up as much information as we can. Whatever our conclusions, we feel like we've been through hell with these characters, and been changed irrevocably by the horrors of war.

So much of Apocalypse Now is about the chaos of war, and so it's appropriate (at least to some extent) that the film should feel out of control. The relaxed discussions at the beginning, in which Willard's mission is laid out, give us some kind of grounding so that we know where he will end up. But the film is populated by profound and moving insights into the inherent anarchy and absurdity of war. These range from Robert Duvall's insistence on surfing at the beach to the post near the Cambodian border where the troops are fighting without a commanding officer. These scenes produce reactions ranging from laughter to sadness to genuine fright, and often all three at once.

Apocalypse Now keeps adding more and more literary aspects to its central story, like someone throwing books into a library that had just been set on fire. The final showdown between Willard and Kurtz is an inventive restaging of The Golden Bough, in which the murderer kills the mad king and becomes king himself. Much of Martin Sheen's dialogue is culled from Michael Herr's Dispatches, which would later be used by Kubrick on Full Metal Jacket. And Kurtz takes on aspects of both Eliot's 'The Hollow Men' and Genghis Khan, whom Coppola studied while the sets were rebuilt.

At the heart of Apocalypse Now is the darkness at the heart of all mankind, and the ability of such darkness to consume all that is good and just and sane if fully unleashed. Kurtz has tipped over into this darkness by his experiences in Vietnam. The war has caused him to see the futility and the nonsense in his orders, and he now lives out his days as a hollow man who has understood evil at the cost of losing his soul. Willard kills Kurtz to fulfil his mission, but the very act of obedience threatens to tip him over into the same darkness. Although he manages to resist, he leaves Kurtz's kingdom as a shell of a man, his life shattered by knowledge of that same evil.

Apocalypse Now is a truly extraordinary piece of work which is fully deserving of its masterpiece status. In spite of its myriad flaws, it retains an indescribable aura which leaves us shrinking into our seats, mesmerised and paralysed with fear and wonder. It's a film which damaged both Coppola as a filmmaker and the New Hollywood movement, whose reputation for indulgence had finally caught up with them. But at the dawn of the blockbuster age, it is a fantastic last hurrah and remains one of the most extraordinary experiences in American cinema.
Super Reviewer
July 22, 2007
Truly a hallucinatory, psychological contemplation on what it means to be a human at the end of the 20th century, disguised as the hunt for a madmen who's made himself "god of the jungle" during the Vietnam war, the first scenes establish that the hunter is quite mad himself, setting up what is to follow. I would give this film (the last of my MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND WAR MOVIE BLOWOUT!) more stars if I could. Could Coppola have used more smoke in this film? I don't think so. And what about us, "We The People", the ones who usually fight the wars, have we learned anything, anything at all?
Super Reviewer
May 3, 2011
Is there method to this madness? A horrific and haunting mission through The Vietnam War will leave you with some both symbolic and disturbing images. A terrific performance by Sheen and a stunning visual capture of the war will set this epic film as classic to the war film genre.
Super Reviewer
½ July 23, 2010
I really liked this movie. I haven't actually seen the original only the redux version. A lot of people say the original is far better and that I should watch the original first but I was told this after I saw the newer version so it was too late. I wished I had watched the original first since it's supposedly way better but this version was really good too. It was a little too long and dragged in some scene but I heard that a lot of the scenes that bored me weren't in the original version. I really liked the movie though and I will try to rent the original version sometime later.

Grade: A-
Super Reviewer
February 22, 2011
I can't help but feel terribly uneasy watching this movie, every time. One of my favorite Coppola pieces, and a truly ferocious and uncompromising war-time epic.
Super Reviewer
September 6, 2010
A classic Vietnam war film, and it is good, that is it's made well and it's an interesting story, but I didn't care much for it. Mostly because it's very slow, but that's part of the atmosphere of it, I guess. If you like Vietnam films, you'll like it.
Super Reviewer
½ August 3, 2006
It doesn't take long to see why this is such a popular high rated film, a great solid performance by Martin Sheen and this is one film where the narration really seems to work well.

Admittedly I did have to watch this in a few sittings, but was a film I enjoyed, I'm sure this is one that is rated higher by the men, but liked it all the same.
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