Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Cast: Martin Sheen, Robert Duvall, Marlon Brando, Laurence Fishburne, Dennis Hopper, Albert Hall, Sam Bottoms, Frederick Forrest, Harrison Ford, Scott Glenn
If you were to take a war poem and transform it into a piece of cinema, the result would not be remarkably different from 'Apocalypse Now'. This film is so much more than just a war picture. Its focus engulfs oodles more than simply the brutality of battle. On the subject of being left alone with your conscience and being put to the test of sanity, 'Apocalypse Now' is art in its truest form. The strips of film used to create this masterpiece are history worthy of display in an art museum. In terms of a portrait of morality, brutality, and honest insanity, it is perhaps the finest film ever made.
Plot Synopsis (Possible Spoilers Below):
Benjamin Willard (Sheen) is a captain in the U.S. Army currently stationed in Saigon during the Vietnam War. Alone with his memories and his conscience, he is quickly descending into borderline madness as he wishes and wishes for nothing more than a mission. "Like room service", one is brought to him. He is briefed on the highly-decorated Colonel Walter E. Kurtz (Brando), who has broken away from the chain of command and has been operating independently of any human decency. Deep in Cambodia, Kurtz has entranced locals into worshipping him like a god and adhering to his mentally-questionable short fuse. Captain Willard is given the dangerous task of sailing up the Nung River on a Navy patrol boat, infiltrating Kurtz' compound, and terminating the Colonel's command. Along the way, the captain is forced to see in vivid detail the earth's own personification of a 'descent into madness'. (End Synopsis)
Line by line...frame by frame...bullet by bullet...no film has latched onto me and grasped the limbs of morality within my brain like this cinematic artwork has. Whether I am talking about the cinematography, the acting, the plot, the dialogue, the deeper message, or the overall signifigance of the film, this is truly as close to flawless as a movie can possibly venture. The cinematography is the art that satisfies the visual. A brilliant contrast of red and black is present throughout nearly the whole film (the cover of the DVD really is an accurate preview of the hue of the overall work). As choppers fly and fight, we the audience are brought straight into battle as though it is 1970. It is in the battle scenes that the film confronts brutality.
As a North Vietnamese soldier lays dying (with his guts held in by a pot lid), Lt. Colonel Bill Kilgore (Duvall) refuses to deny him a drink. As an American soldier with a mangled leg is put into a chopper (ready to take him to get immediate medical attention), a Vietnamese woman throws a grenade into the helicopter. As though it is nothing more than a game of cards, Kilgore marks every Viet Cong body with a "death card" to let Charlie know who spat in their face. With a laugh and a narcissistic speech on the thrill of victory, Kilgore gleefully has a treeline bombed with napalm (with the goal being the ability to safely surf the waves in the Nung River). As Willard later narrates, if that is how Kilgore fights the war, then maybe Colonel Kurtz isn't all that brutal in relativity to the average commanding officer. Throughout the film, half-naked bodies hang idly from trees in the backdrop, while the characters carry on talking as though this as normal as hanging your clothes out to dry.
Now the acting is simply brilliant. As the film progresses, it only gets better. As the characters become more imbalanced, the performances become more symbolic, more determined, and more relevant. Martin Sheen's performance is a dire and gritty release of all that an American soldier wishes to reveal but is too proud to do so. He is a conflicted man with a desire to do all that he believes he is good for. After a nasty divorce, his only true staple is to be out there in the bush fighting the war. Robert Duvall gives a much more straight-forward performance. He too is conflicted but is obviously expressing his fun and upbeat outlook on battle as a compensation for his desire to return home to his family, just as most of the other soldiers are. But by far, my favorite show of thespian skill is given by Marlon Brando in his brief but powerful monologue toward the conclusion. Every word he speaks is worthy of a morality poem.
"I remember when I was with Special Forces... seems a thousand centuries ago. We went into a camp to inoculate some children. We left the camp after we had inoculated the children for polio, and this old man came running after us and he was crying. He couldn't see. We went back there, and they had come and hacked off every inoculated arm. There they were in a pile. A pile of little arms. And I remember... I... I... I cried, I wept like some grandmother. I wanted to tear my teeth out; I didn't know what I wanted to do! And I want to remember it. I never want to forget it... I never want to forget. And then I realized... like I was shot... like I was shot with a diamond... a diamond bullet right through my forehead. And I thought, my God... the genius of that! The genius! The will to do that! Perfect, genuine, complete, crystalline, pure. And then I realized they were stronger than we, because they could stand that these were not monsters, these were men... trained cadres. These men who fought with their hearts, who had families, who had children, who were filled with love... but they had the strength... the strength... to do that. If I had ten divisions of those men, our troubles here would be over very quickly. You have to have men who are moral... and at the same time who are able to utilize their primordial instincts to kill without feeling... without passion... without judgment... without judgment! Because it's judgment that defeats us."
I'm not even sure that summing all of that up would be a wise way to deliver its message. To interpret it...to understand it is to read it...or even better...to hear Brando deliver it in his hushed and vividly convincing (and imaginative) voice. It is behind these words that we discover a certain truthfulness. Though immoral...though devoid of any acceptable human conduct...to do what is necessary is to do what is, in a certain sense of the word, right. One of my favorite lines in the whole film is delivered by Brando directly to Captain Willard. He says, "You have a right to kill me...you have a right to do that. But you have no right to judge me." Perhaps what Colonel Kurtz is saying here is that the hearts of darkness in all of us are what make us human...instinctive...and reasonably rash. To kill is to perform a necessary duty. To judge is to incorporate personal bias...to bestow your own interpretation of what is right and what is wrong. One could argue that in favor of Kurtz...there is no right and wrong; there is what is and there is what is not. When we abandon what we are at our instinctive core, are we evolving? Or are we devolving? It is our own evolutionary apocalypse...the destruction of our roots...the sweeping away of our primordial instincts.
What is 'Apocalypse Now' when you look deeper? It is art in the deepest and most symbolic form. It is the tale of innocence lost, horror confronted, and ethicality questioned. It is a virtuous test of our hearts, making us dissect the brutality of fighting, the realities of trepidation, the bitterness of confinement, and the honesty of moral judgment. A vivid example of this would be during the death scene of 17-year old Clean Miller. As he lays in cessation from the world, a tape of his mother's voice recites her impatient desire to hold him in her arms again. It is an emotionally compromising scene and will likely go over the heads of many without their giving it a second glance. The signifigance of 'Apocalypse Now' resides not in its visual or emotional appeal...but in its cinematic quest for human truth...for ethical genuity...for the answer to the ultimate question posed by everything ever encountered in our lives..."What is the right thing to do?"
Final Consensus: Filled to the brim with fine performances, irresistable dialogue, and deep meaningful symbolism, 'Apocalypse Now' is an audacious and visionary cinematic artwork masterfully crafted by Francis Ford Coppola.
Last edited by Timma1986 on Mon May 23, 2011 9:15 pm; edited 2 times in total (Reason for editing : typos)
Post Count : 21
Age : 26
Location : Las Vegas, NV
Interests : I love acting, improv, and movies. I like to write my movie reviews whenever I go see a new film. I also enjoy reading and playing video games, and occasionally playing basketball.
Registration date : 2011-03-16
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