Personal Score: 10/10
It is hard to describe the incredible film, Apocalypse Now, after just one viewing. It is a war film, but not in the typical sense of the term. Most of the time when we say "war film" we mean a film that takes place in and is therefore somewhat about a particular war, such as Saving Private Ryan, which took place in WWII and was somewhat about it as well. With Apocalypse Now, however, this is not the case. Yes, it takes place in the Vietnam War, but to say it is about it isn't exactly true. This film is about war itself. This is a look into the very soul of conflict, and what one must become to attain victory.
The film's plot centers around Captain Benjamin Willard (Martin Sheen), who has been assigned to terminate the command of Colonel Walter E. Kurtz (Marlon Brando). Kurtz is a soldier with so many decorations, so much pedigree, that Willard is puzzled as to why he is asked to assassinate the man. He is told that Kurtz has gone insane and that his methods are unsound, but as the film progresses and Willard learns more and more about the man he must confront, he begins to believe this isn't the case. He is unsure of whether or not he can kill this man, but more than anything he wants to confront him.
The film is a long, creeping journey into the very heart of darkness. I don't mean this as a pun reference to the Joseph Conrad novel from which the film is based, but the title is definitely appropriate. As Willard and the men assigned to him travel upriver, we see just how much of an effect war is having on them. The further they go, the darker things become. They become deadlier, more primal, anxious.
Finally, when Willard meets Kurtz, we are introduced to a man who has seen what he calls "horror," and has befriended it. His speech to Willard about horror is one of the most memorable I have ever seen, and is both terrifying and fascinating.
This film's relevance was also quite striking. Listening to the way the characters describe their enemy, particularly Kurtz's description of their strength to kill dispassionately and without feeling, one cannot help but think of the current war climate in the Middle East that America is in, and that the enemy she faces is one that doesn't fight like regular armies would.
Apocalypse Now is an incredible, epic war film. It is unlike any other of its kind, and perhaps better than all others. Francis Ford Coppola has directed several great films, most notably The Godfather trilogy, but for my money, this is his greatest achievement in filmmaking. Apocalypse Now is a masterpiece.