Apocalypse Now Redux Movie Review

Forget The Godfather. The sheer brilliance of Francis Ford Coppola lies in the images and words of his real masterpiece, Apocalypse Now. Twenty-two years ago, Coppola ventured into the jungles of the Philippines to shoot an adaptation of Joesph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, set against the turmoil and fury of the Vietnam War. Coppola assembled an impressive cast of actors -- 14 year-old Laurence Fishburne, Robert Duvall, Martin Sheen (replacing Harvey Keitel), Dennis Hopper, Frederic Forrest, and the great Marlon Brando -- and set out to shoot a war epic. By the end, Coppola had lost 100 pounds, principal photography ran for 16 weeks, Martin Sheen had a heart attack, Brando demanded all of his shots be done in shadow, and Coppola had invested millions of his own money to keep the production going, all while threatening suicide numerous times. After all the pain, Apocalypse Now was finally revealed, exposing itself as one of the most amazing pieces of celluloid ever produced, capturing not only the ugliness and ridiculousness of Vietnam, but exposing the dark heart of man as well.

The end result: 8 Academy Award nominations (including Best Picture) and 2 wins for Cinematography and Score. Apocalypse Now additionally cemented Coppola's place as an A-plus-list film director, giving him free rein for the next 20 years to make crap like Captain Eo and Jack, junk which no one in Hollywood would dare criticize.

Like Cameron (with The Abyss) and Lucas (with Star Wars), Coppola recently decided to take another whack at Apocalypse Now, dubbing this new director's cut Apocalypse Now Redux. At a running time of over 3 hours and 15 minutes, Redux demands even more of your attention (the original runs 2:33) and still it never lets you up for a breath of reality.

Apocalypse Now follows the story of a burnt out Army captain named Willard (Sheen), who has been given the task of hunting down and "exterminating... with extreme prejudice" a renegade Green Beret colonel named Kurtz (Brando). Kurtz has apparently gone insane, establishing himself as a God for a Cambodian jungle tribe. Willard travels upriver on a Navy PBR with four grunts: Chef (Frederic Forrest), Chief (Albert Hall), Mr. Clean (Laurence Fishburne), and Lance (Sam Bottoms, who was on speed and LSD for most of the film's production). Along the way, Willard and his crew encounter the mighty Lt. Colonel Kilgore (Robert Duvall), pass the time waterskiing and shooting locals, and spend a strange dinner conversing with French colonists still fighting the Viet Cong. In the end, Dante's Inferno is reached when the boat finds a coked-up photographer (played by Dennis Hopper) and Colonel Kurtz himself.

Apocalypse Now is not a film but a sensory overload for the insane. The Redux version adds over 40 minutes of original footage (not digitally enhanced crap) which further details and defines the horrors encountered by Willard on his travel up the river to find Kurtz. Four main scenes are restored: a scene where Willard and his crew encounter the Playboy Playmates stranded upriver, the bizarre French Plantation dinner scene mentioned above, a key scene between Kurtz and Willard which further explores Kurtz's psyche, and additional bits on the boat near the beginning of the journey, better establishing the camaraderie onboard.

Does Apocalypse Now need a new, longer cut? No. Is the original inexplicably improved with one? Somehow, yes. Highly recommended.

Did I tell you the one about the snail?


Apocalypse Now Redux Rating

" Essential "

Rating: R, 1979


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