Scratch another one off my “I can’t believe I’ve never seen this yet” list. First Alien, and now Apocalypse Now, Francis Ford Coppola’s Vietnam war epic to end all Vietnam war epics. With plenty of indelible images and dialogue (the napalm speech by Robert Duvall recently came in first in a poll of most memorable film speeches), Apocalypse Now is absolutely nothing but iconic every step of the way. I can’t imagine what it must have taken to get this movie on film (and thanks to the documentary Hearts of Darkness, I don’t have to); there is such production value embedded in this that I don’t know how they did multiple takes of some of the shots and scenes, if indeed they were even able to.
For those not in the know, the film’s plot details the mission of Capt. Willard, played by Martin Sheen, to find and infiltrate the command of one Col. Walter E. Kurtz in order to execute the man. Kurtz, played by Marlon Brando, is intentionally an enigma, a mysterious fog of a man who never seems to be corporeal in a real-world sense. In this, he is much like how the film treats Vietnam itself; an enigma, a mysterious fog that envelops every single man sent there and never fully goes away. More than anything, this film shows what Vietnam does to a man – his heart, and his soul. It’s an incredible production, albeit one that takes some liberties with how Vietnam must have actually been like, but that can be easily forgiven.
Strangely enough, it took me some effort to find a copy of the original theatrical cut, instead of the 2001 Redux edit, which seems to be the only one on TV nowadays. I intentionally haven’t seen Redux, because I wanted to see the original cut first, so I can’t attest to what Redux has to offer, but as for this film, it’s probably as close to a definitive Vietnam film as you can get. I’ll always have a spot in my heart for Platoon, and Platoon will always reign supreme for me in giving an authentic Vietnam experience, but as for the Hollywood variety, Apocalypse Now is the king.
Also, again, what is up with the total lack of proofreading in the Book? The film only won 2 Academy Awards, one of which isn’t even listed, but it does list it as winning five, including Best Picture and Director, when they were actually only nominations. Seriously, this is becoming inexcusable; I know going through and detailing 1,001 films was a gargantuan task to begin with, but this just makes it look sloppily done.
Arbitrary Rating: 10/10