Nominated for 8 Academy Awards, this classic and compelling Vietnam War epic stars Martin Sheen as Captain Willard, who is sent on a dangerous and mesmerizing odyssey into Cambodia to assassinate a renegade American Colone... more »l named Kurtz (Marlon Brando), who has succumbed to the horrors of war and barricaded himself in a remote outpost. Also stars Robert Duvall, Laurence Fishburne, Dennis Hopper and Harrison Ford.« less
Chad B. (abrnt1) from CABERY, IL Reviewed on 3/8/2012...
This is a hard film to really comprehend. At first glance it appears to be a Vietnam War film similar in many ways to movies like Platoon or Full Metal Jacket. In reality though it is something else altogether. Based off the Joseph Campbell novel Heart of Darkness Apocalypse Now is more of an allegory about one man's attempt to understand evil and the depths he's willing to sink so in order to do so. The film seems disjointed for a reason and is ment to make the viewer feel uncomfortable throughout. This film is a masterpiece of subjective cinema that requires the viewer to think while watching it in order to fully grasp what's happening. The subtle moments carry far more impact overall then the bombastic setpieces that tend to stand out (I love the smell of napalm in the morning).
1 of 2 member(s) found this review helpful.
Original versus Redux (see comments section for my "Redux" D
Joe Kenney | Dallas, TX USA | 05/09/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I'm a hardcore Apocalypse Now fanatic, and this, the original version of the film, is what made me one, several years ago. Reviewers like to debate endlessly over which version is better, this or the Redux. Personally, I like both, but I find this original version to be more surreal, relentless, and, to quote another reviewer, more "dangerous." The fact is, Coppola used different shots and edits in the Redux, in some cases diluting the surreal impact of the original. Plus the characters Kilgore and Kurtz come off more strongly in the original; sure, we get to see more humanity from Kilgore in the Redux, but his exit in the original is much more memorable, much better than the "tossing megaphone into the air" antics as shown in the Redux. And Kurtz is a more powerful Evil One in the original version, not much more than a shadow.
What gets me is that, in the press releases that came out with Redux, Coppola claimed that he no longer considered the 1979 version of Apocalypse to be "unusual." He felt that, today, it comes off as a rather ordinary film. So he integrated an extra 50 minutes into the movie, to make it more unusual. The thing is, the Redux is, if anything, MORE normal than the original. After all, you get more character development, a romantic subplot, etc; all the things the unusual (and unique), original version lacked. The very lack of these things is what gives the original such a mysterious, dangerous edge. There is no levity in the original, no stealing of surfboards, no Playmates for the PBR crew. Only the dark jungle, and the mission.
If it's true that Coppola wanted to make the original version even more unusual, then I wonder why he chose to add the Plantation sequence and the Playboy Bunnies escapade. Having seen the Work Print, I know that there is a wealth of material Coppola could've used. Bizarre? Unusual? How about a scene in which Martin Sheen's Willard, trapped in a bamboo cage, writhes in pain as the montangnards (and Kurtz's American soldiers) dance and chant around him, as they sacrifice a pig? Or how about Willard, still in the cage, being questioned by Kurtz, who tells Willard that he's as weak as his "colleagues in Washington?" Or how about possibly the most bizarre scene of all: Dennis Hopper's Photojournalist being shotgunned to death by Scott Glenn's character Colby?
Coppola could have used any or all of these scenes to make a truly "unusual" film, one that would successfully create a darker film. If anything, the extra scenes in Redux lighten the film's mood. Coppola could have even improved on the end of the movie. That's one thing that's always bothered me about Apocalypse Now. Willard's hired to murder Kurtz; when he finally does, all he has to do is just walk into Kurtz's temple, take out one guard, and then get to hacking at Kurtz. It comes off as so easy, you wonder why the Army even bothered hiring Willard. This problem is solved in the Work Print, which features Willard taking on a host of guards, including one grisly scene in which he spears an American guard who cowers behind a young, Vietnamese boy. Now, if you ask me, that's more "unusual" than a bunch of French people arguing politics at the dinner table! But unfortunately, Coppola has chosen not to use these scenes, in either official version of the film.
I don't intend to mislead, though. I think the Redux is fine, a five-star movie. It expands on the broader themes of Apocalypse Now, but at the same time lessens the impact of the movie itself. After having watched the Redux a few times, I popped the original in for the first time in a few years. I was amazed at how the film seemed so different than the Redux, so much more psychedelic and surreal. Even the fades and images shown in the beginning and the end are different in the original, more disturbing. And that's the main difference between the two versions: the original is much more disturbing.
I'll finish with another quote, taken from the web. Which director do you think is better, the Francis Coppola of 1976/1979, or the Francis Coppola of 2001? Of these two very different directors, whose vision would you be more willing to trust?
1/27/09 update: Six years ago I also had a review for the "Redux" DVD here on Amazon. Somehow it's been removed from the site -- it seems Amazon has combined the reviews for the original Apocalypse Now DVD release with the reviews for the "Redux DVD" release. And since Amazon has a policy that a reviewer can only post one review per item, it appears that my "Redux" review got the boot. I've rescued it from oblivion via a Google cache search; please see the Comments section, below, for the review."
"Apocalypse Now - Redux" -- IT WORKS!
R.D. Monsoon | 08/15/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The original cut always felt incomplete. It was a bunch of great vignettes which were just thrown together. The new footage has helped give the film breathing room which was much needed. No longer is the ship raced from one surreal incident to the next. At the same time, the new footage also helps strengthen some of the films themes.Before I continue, it's worth noting that "Redux" isn't your typical directors cut, where new footage is simply just shoved into the film. Coppola and editor Walter Murch created an entirely new cut of the film using the original negatives. The film has also been beautifully restored using Technicolor dye-transfer prints, giving the film the Technicolor look of movies from the 40's and 50's. The colors are vibrant, rich, lush and blacks and truly black. "Apocalypse Now" was always one of the most beautifully photographed films and this new transfer helps justify that. The Cinematographer Vittorio Storaro said he cried when he saw the transfer. The remasterd sound is also spectacular. Murch has done an excellent job of putting the audience in the jungle. Now back to the film.The first bit a new footage was an extension of the last scene with Robert Duvall's character, Lt. Kilgore. After giving his famous napalm speech Kilgore is informed that the waves at the beech aren't going to be as big as he expected because the napalm strike has disturbed the wind. This is a nice little touch showing the cause and the effect of the US's actions; no matter what they do, there is a negative effect. After that, Martin Sheen's character Willard, steels Kilgore's surfboard. This was another nice addition. The original version always lacked scenes of Willard before his transformation from going up the river. The scene also helped reinforce the relationship Willard has with the men on the boat; they of course all get a kick out of what Willard does.The next big addition is the Playboy Bunny scene. This scene helps show how the war has even dehumanized sex. Lance (Sam Bottoms) is in a mud filled tent and is painting the face of the bunny he is with. I thought it was great how Coppola showed how dirty sex had become. Meanwhile, Chef (Frederic Forrest) is transforming the bunny he is with into another bunny by having her wear a wing and pose the same way this other bunny did in her spread. This was a masterful way of showing how incredibly impersonal sex has become.The last big addition I'll talk about is the infamous French Plantation scene. The scene started off well, but slowly went down hill. In the first part of it, the French help Willard and the men conduct a funeral for Clean (Fishburne). The men do their best job to conduct a funeral, but it's not exactly up to what a typical army funeral is. There's some great imagery in there, like the small shredded American flag which is used. The funeral scene also makes a great comparison to how Chief (Albert Hall) death is handled. By that time in the film, they are so far up the river that the Army's and American values have vanished; Lance is having a fun time with the body (the body's final resting place is the river, not the earth) while Willard and Chief are totally preoccupied.The plantation scene also helped reinforce the going back in time theme, something which came up a lot in "Heart of Darkness" but never panned out so well in the '79 version of "AP".After the funeral there is a dinner scene with the plantation heads, and this is where things go down hill. There is just way too much dialogue in this scene and Coppola's intentions are quite transparent. The French basically give a recap of the West's involvement in Vietnam and then talk specifically about the US's presence there. It was like Coppola was saying "Incase you don't know what the film is about and why the US are the bad guys in this war..." Worst of all the scene dragged out and hurt the pacing of the film. Coppola spent the last two hours communicating his anti war message visually and suddenly he just had someone blurt it all. There's some new stuff at the Kurtz compound, nothing too important but it helps give us some more time to take in the last 3rd of the film; again helping to reduce that rushed feeling.The end still doesn't quite work, but there is no way to fix this. The Vietnam war had no real ending, there was no climax, there wasn't one last big battle. The US simply accepted it was a war which couldn't be won and pulled out. The ending actually reflects this fairly well. Once the mad Colonel Kurtz is killed, Willard walks down to the boat, leading Lance out, who has become totally wrapped up in the madness. They then peacefully go back down the river. While something like one last battle would have given the film more of a sense of finality, that wouldn't have been staying true to the war.Overall, "Apocalypse Now - Redux" is an extraordinary film. Coppola never wastes a even a single frame (well there was the dinner scene...) Since this film was made, I don't think anyone has ever asked so much of the audience."
Not complete, but still worth it. 4 1/2 stars
Matthew K. Putnam | Brooklyn Park, Minnesota United States | 08/17/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The Film 5/5
There have been countless books, websites, and even a documentary (Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmakers Apocalypse) about this film that it seems almost pointless to write about it. One of the most troubled productions in film history, the film went on to recieve universal acclaim and is now a cinema classic.
For those of you getting into this film for the first time, do not expect your typical vietnam war film. In fact you could argue that the film is not really about the Vietnam War, but is instead about man's descent into "the heart of darkness" if you will. The film follows Captain Benjamin Willard (Martin Sheen)who is given a mission to proceed up river into Cambodia to assassinate a Green Beret Colonel (Marlon Brando) who has gone insane.
That is the basic story of the film. But, it is much more than that. The movie is essential one sureal moment after another. From a helicopter attack done to the tune of Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries", to surfing calvary men, to the much debated ending.
If there ever was a film that must be experienced just once in your life this is it.
The Video 5/5
The film was shot in the scope widesceen format of 2:35:1, but is present here (as with other DVD versions) at a slightly cropped 2:00:1 format. This decision (made by Cinematographer Vittorio Storaro) has caused much controversy over the years, and while I would love to see it in it's original format this version doesn't bother me.
That being said this is the best I've ever seen Apocalypse Now look. The colors are much more vivid and flesh tones are more realistic. For a film that was released in 1979 it stands right up there with any modern blockbuster. Each film is spread across two discs for higher picture quality. The result is stunning.
Speaking of standing up there with any modern blockbuster. Apocalypse Now is the Grandfather of all home theater show off films and this new DVD set is no exception. The original discs for their time offered impressive 5.1 mixes, this one however takes it to the next level. Bass response is more dynamic and there were even obscure background sounds and dialogue that I never noticed before on the old versions. It fully uses the 5.1 system. Again for a film released in 1979 it stands toe to toe with any modern movie.
The Extras 4/5
Apocalypse Now: The Complete Dossier is a two disc set that feature both the classic 1979 version and the extended 2001 version known as Apocalypse Now Redux. Each film is divided into two parts. While my preference is for the 1979 version. I recommend watch both versions and decide for yourself which one you prefer.
Extras on disc one include several deleted scenes, Marlon Brando's reading of T.S. Eliot's Poem "The Hollow Men" as well as a few short featurettes on 5.1 sound.
Disc two includes several featurettes on the editing, music and sound of Apocalypse Now. These featurettes are very informative and really give you an insight into the process of assembly a film from what is essentially nothing into a cohesive whole.
Above all else though is the absolutly engaging commentary by director Francis Ford Coppola. Following the same standard of excellence that was on The Godather dvds. This commentary track is extremely informative and provided insights that I've never known before.
Now, what is missing however is the classic making-of documentary Hearts of Darkness. In fact there are no featurettes on this set about the making of the film. One of the reasons Apocalypse Now is so famous is that its production was arguably the most troubled in cinema history. Everything that could possibly go wrong did go wrong.
In spite of the lack of Hearts of Darkness, and the slightly cropped aspect ratio. This DVD version of Apocalypse Now is head and shoulders above the previous versions.
This DVD gets my highest recommendation."
J | Philadelphia, PA United States | 10/01/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"If you are truly a fan of great films stop reading about this one and go see it! Coppolla's "Apocalypse Now Redux" is a real gem. The basic story flows vividly yet mysteriously up the river into the dark jungle. Coppolla, as you may have heard, adapted the story from Joseph Conrad's "Heart of Darkness" with the exception that H.O.D. is set in the African jungle based on a journey that Conrad took into the Upper Congo, then controlled by Belgium as a colony, whereas A.N. is set in the jungles of southeast Asia during the height of the Vietnam war. For Redux, Coppolla went back to the raw footage, or dailies, and re-edited the entire film from scratch. The added scenes enhance rather than detract from the film, I felt. The film is set during the Vietnam War, but it is more about the dark side of human nature, and also how those in power often try to twist and distort the truth to fit meet their own ends. Is there a "method" to Col. Kurtz's madness? See the film and decide for yourself. It is interesting to watch the profound transformation that Capt. Willard (Sheen's character) undergoes.The big questions on your mind may be:1. Did Coppolla considerably improve the film?
2. Did the 45+ extra minutes of film enhance the flow and thematic development of the film?
3. Are the special effects and battle scenes spectacular?The answer to all three of these questions is a resounding YES!
(except perhaps for those closed-minded "purists" out there who vehemently object to ANY change from the original release. To those of you whom fit this description, I remind you- Coppolla himself adapted the movie more closely to what HE originally envisioned, with FULL creative license- not with some big brother film exec looking over his shoulder and pressuring him to edit it in a certain way).Overall improvements:-the panoramic shots are more spectacular (of course this was my first time seeing it on the big screen so I'm sure that makes a difference)...-some of the battle scenes are more realistic, allowing us to see the face of human suffering, not just the awe of exploding napalm bombs.-the scenes at Kurtz's compound are more visually dazzling, and also a bit more shocking and graphic (some may feel this is gratuitous; but I believe Coppolla did that intentionally to communicate the devastation of man's violent nature, and the vicious cycle that we find ourselves in as a race).Moral of the story: Evil is rooted in lies; we all have a dark side to our human nature that we try hard to deny and keep in the shadows.
For more on this theme read Conrad's novella "Heart of Darkness" (a concise 130 some pgs) or delve into some of Carl Jung's writings about the shadow side of human nature.Interesting tidbits:-Mr. Clean, the teenage soldier on the gunboat was played by a 14 yr old Laurence "Larry" Fishburne.-Much of the film was shot in the Philippines on location-Coppolla had to personally mortgage virutally everything he owned to secure financing to complete the film which ran well over the studio budget.-Coppolla makes a cameo appearance as a wartime journalist in the filmApocalypse Now Redux is a cinematic masterpiece- well worth the journey upriver."