I am going to start off by saying that I have not seen the original 1979 version, only the Apocalypse Now Redux, so im not really sure what the 49 minutes of extra footage was, however I believe that the bonus time added wouldn't have ruined the movie for me if I had seen the original before. Many people say that the extra time gave the movie an unnecessary long drawn out feel and even though I could understand that point of view, every moment to me no matter how insignificant it might have been to others gives the movie a true to the heart realistic feel. Even the frames of the stillness of the Vietnamese jungle give the movie a certain kind of beauty in the midst of the atrocities that are occurring in the war. You have to have patience for this movie to understand and appreciate it. It is not always a constant war battle in every scene but a personal experience through the journey of soldiers in the battle of war that can not only kill them physically but mentally as well.
For a short plot sum-up, it revolves around a US Army special operations officer, Captain Benjamin L. Willard (Martin Sheen) who is sent into the jungle to assassinate the rogue and presumably insane Colonel Walter E. Kurtz (Marlon Brando) of Special Forces. The film opens by introducing Captain Benjamin L. Willard (Martin Sheen), as a deeply troubled, seasoned special operations veteran. Willard has returned to Saigon from deployment in the field. He drinks excessively and appears to be having difficulty adjusting back to his life. Two intelligence officers approach him with an assignment: journey up the fictitious Nung River into the remote Cambodian jungle to find Colonel Walter E. Kurtz (Marlon Brando). They tell Willard that Kurtz, once considered a model officer and future general, has gone insane and is commanding a legion of his own Montagnard troops deep inside the forest in neutral Cambodia. Their claims are supported by very disturbing radio broadcasts and recordings made by Kurtz himself. Willard is ordered to undertake a mission to find Kurtz and terminate the Colonel's command "with extreme prejudice". The remainder of the film showcases their journey up the river and their experiences throughout the trip which include an encounter with Lieutenant Colonel Bill Kilgore played by Robert Duvall, who loves surfing and the smell of napalm.
When Willard finally reaches Colonel Kurtz's compound, he is met by a manic freelance photographer (Dennis Hopper), who explains that Kurtz's greatness and philosophical skills inspire his people to follow him. After spending time in captivity, Willard is lectured by Kurtz on his theories of war, humanity and civilization.
Even though you can view Marlon Brando's character as a villain, it is simply not as cut and dry as to label him as a villain. They label his character as being insane, but when it comes to war, the circumstances around you can bring out the the worst in everyone and truly drive you mad. After his experiences in war, he begins to understand and have respect for his enemy. He praises the ruthlessness of the Viet Cong because they possessed a yearning of wanting to succeed no matter what the consequences, they had a reason to fight for their country, something that the U.S soldiers did not have because they were inexperienced and unaware of their surroundings and unaware of what they were actually fighting for. Everyone can decide for themselves what they want to believe about Colonel Kurtz, it is undoubted that his soul had gone mad, but it had gone mad because he realized that he didn't really believe in what he was fighting for.
Now I must also praise Martin Sheen for his performance as it embodies the traumatic and psychological impacts that the war can have on a soldier. As many times true, after a soldier returns from war, he cannot seem to adapt to his old lifestyle without the constant adrenaline of life and death situations. He wants so badly to go back into war, where it seems he feels more comfortable than in the seemingly slow paced life outside of war. Many times a soldier cannot contemplate with the effects the war has left on him or her and they become a different person, forever changed.
I am myself personally not a war advocate, especially not for the Vietnam War, which was a war doomed from the very beginning with drafting inexperienced young boys to fight in a foreign unknown world for a cause that many did not even believe in. We lost so many innocent lives and did not even achieve the purpose we had initially wanted.
Also I would like to add that if you appreciate a good war movie, I would recommend that you read a very good book about the Vietnam War called "The Things They Carried" by Tim O'brien. I was very moved by it's intensity and realistic feel as it is told by an actual war vet.
I would strongly recommend everyone to watch this movie, new or old version, it will certainly not be a waste of your time but a few hours of a true masterpiece, produced and directed by Francis Ford Coppola, who you know will not leave you disappointed.
Thank you for reading :)