Film of the Day: “Apocalypse Now”

Apocalypse Now (1979)

Or, more specifically, the Redux version.

The definitive Vietnam film, perhaps. Much has been made of Apocalypse Now‘s fraught production – sets destroyed by weather, Francis Ford Coppola’s indecision over how to to edit and end the film, the hushed-up heart attack suffered by Martin Sheen, the overweight, underprepared, overpaid legend that was Marlon Brando arriving for a month’s on-location filming in September 1976.

But the end result is such a stunning achievement visually; criticism of Apocalypse Now seems to be that it’s intellectually lightweight and a fatuous exercise in self-indulgence. The Redux version won’t convert the self-indulgent argument, as it stretches close to the three-hour mark, but the significant addition of the French plantation episode only adds to the historical and social context. And, anyway, intellectually lightweight? Not really. This isn’t some ropey rom-com. It feels honest and gritty and real; it captures a certain spirit that’s often hard to capture on film without regressing into sloppy sentimentality or calculated point-making. Indeed, the plot of the film – Martin Sheen’s US Army captain Willard’s mission to find and assassinate the supposedly corrupt and insane Colonel Kurtz (Brando) is really only the vehicle for sequence after sequence, shot after shot, of some genuinely haunting, beautiful, bleak, and hilarious moments.

It’s an epic in the best sense; it doesn’t get tired or outstay its welcome. It’s an experience. It’s a feast. Everyone should try it at some point.

Oh, and how good is the opening scene? Never was The Doors’ “The End” utilised so appropriately


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