Apocalypse Now Redux Movie Review

Just issued on a remastered DVD, Coppola's 1979 masterpiece gets the director's cut treatment in this Redux version, as 49 minutes of previously edited footage are reinserted to bring the film in line with the director's original vision.

And the result is stunning, making an astonishing film even more powerful ...

but changing it completely in the process.

The story, based on Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, centres on Captain Willard (Sheen), a US Army intelligence officer with a mission to travel into Cambodia and terminate ("with extreme prejudice") the command of the renegade Colonel Kurtz (Brando). Along the way he bonds with the crew (Forrest, Bottoms, Fishburne and Hall) of the boat taking him up-river as they encounter a gung-ho surfing colonel (Duvall), a sexy French woman (Clement), a few Playboy Bunnies, a free-wheeling journalist (Hopper) and more war-time horrors than they could have imagined.

This has always been a magical, gruelling, brilliant movie, so it's surprising that Coppola has tampered with it in such significant ways. But he says this was his original intent - less a war movie and more a film about truth and restraint, which more closely echoes Conrad's novel. In this sense, the new edit is a triumph, because the film's numbing chaos is now much more finely focussed on these themes, even if the story itself is more rambling.

Diversions into two new scenes now break up the narrative; a second sequence involving the Bunnies sits nicely in the story, while an extended detour to a French plantation brings the plot to a haunting halt but sets up the final thematic cataclysm more sharply. Other insertions add a much-needed camaraderie among the boat crew, which makes their transformation into "hollow men" much more evocative. And unnerving political discussions about government and media misinformation create a clearer context; these were ahead of their time in 1979, but they're pop-culture today.

All of these changes have not altered the film's genius. It's still stunningly beautiful to look at, remarkably moving and horrific, and jammed with memorable characters in unforgettable situations. Coppola's direction is impeccable, capturing both the intimate detail, overarching spectacle and layered depth of meaning, often all in one shot. All without a single digital special effect! This is essential, must-see cinema. And this so-called "definitive" edit hits us even more squarely between the eyes.


Apocalypse Now Redux Rating

" Essential "

Rating: 15, 1979


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