Apocalypse Now Redux Reviews
One of my favorite films in terms of pure film art.
Vietnam, 1967. An elite soldier, Captain Willard (played by Martin Sheen), is sent on a top secret mission to "terminate with extreme prejudice" Colonel Kurtz (Marlon Brando). Colonel Kurtz is a US Army officer who has apparently gone insane and is fighting his own war from within Cambodia with an army of native soldiers. To find Kurtz, Willard sets off down the river on a patrol boat...
Searingly brilliant. As a story alone this movie is fantastic. Superb plot with some iconic scenes (eg Ride of the Valkyries), great, quotable dialogue (eg Napalm in the morning, The Horror) and some very funny lines ("Charlie don't surf!").
Director Francis Ford Coppola expertly builds the tension. The movie starts off quite light-heartedly - the first third or so of the movie is quite funny, especially anything involving Colonel Kilgore (Robert Duvall). It is actually over-the-top funny (eg surfing in the middle of a fire fight), which might seem strange but shows you the insanity of war and soldiers at war, and prepares you for what comes later.
As the movie goes on it becomes much darker. Coppola slowly tightens the rope around the viewer's neck, until the intensity is suffocating. By the end you're in the middle of a nightmare, a hell on earth. This demonstrates the slow progression from balanced soldier to insane maniac.
So many deeper issues tackled along the way: the duality of man, good vs evil, the morality of war and why the US lost in Vietnam.
Excellent performances from Sheen, Brando and Duvall. Duvall received a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination for his performance. Good support from a cast that includes Dennis Hopper, Harrison Ford and Laurence Fishburne.
Regarding the Redux version, its add-on scenes are of mixed value. Some are great - anything involving Colonel Kilgore / Robert Duvall is definitely a win as his character is comedy gold. Some parts of the French plantation scene are very useful, and give you a clue to where the US is going with the war and why they will lose it, but some of it feels like padding. The entire Medevac scene (with the Playboy bunnies) is unnecessary.
So a bit hit-and-miss. Overall the extra scenes probably enhance the movie, slightly.
The film is an adaptation of Joseph Conrad's book, Heart of Darkness, placed in the context of the Vietnam War, rather than in Africa. Martin Sheen is brilliant as the protagonist. Marlon Brando is in his natural element as an actor, largely improvising his role as Colonel Kurtz.
The Redux version adds some unnecessary footage, that is not essential for first time viewers, but appreciated by Apocalypse Now aficionados such as myself.
At 3 hours, this film is an epic, yet has little dialogue. It is mostly narrated by Captain Willard, the leader of an expedition to terminate Kurtz. It has a strong parallel to Dante's Inferno, as the travelers pass through the different stages of Hell (i.e. war is hell). The travelling up river theme has also borrowed heavily from Herzog's Aguirre, Wrath of God. Performances by Dennis Hopper, Robert Duvall and Harrison Ford round out the cast.
This is not a casual film. This is a work of art to be savoured and studied. The sound and visuals are equally as important as the dialogue and acting. The film is in a class by itself and sparked a revisiting of Vietnam films after it. It is a must see for anyone who appreciates cinema. This is the art in its highest form.