20 April 2024

Review: Apocalypse Now

It is very tough to review a film that has won countless awards, been critically praised, voted as the ‘Best War Film Ever’ by Empire and even parodied numerous times on The Simpsons. Though I will do my best;

It may come as a shock but I had actually not seen Francis Ford’s Vietnam masterpiece Apocalypse Nowbefore, so it was a real treat to get my debut viewing in the cinema, with a fully restored print and improved audio. Within ten minutes of watching it I was glad I had not watched it on DVD before, despite owning it for years so my first experience could be on the big screen.

Having watched Platoon and Full Metal Jacket earlier this year, I was looking forward to seeing Apocalypse to complete the unofficial trilogy of best Vietnam films. And boy, did it not disappoint and is probably my favourite of the three.

For those who have not seen it, the film follows U.S. Army Captain Willard’s mission up the Nung River in Vietnam to kill Green Beret Walter Kurtz, who the U.S. Army believe has gone insane.

The film, originally released in 1979, sort of plays like a road movie, albeit set on a river not a road. Willard played by a naturalistic Martin Sheen encounters many different characters on his journey and experiences many of the hardships of war.

It is worth noting how great the cast is; Sheen is joined by Robert Duvall, Dennis Hopper, a very old looking Marlon Brando, a very young Lawrence Fishbourne and even a cameo by Harrison Ford. Some real titans of the screen all putting in good work.

The film is shot exquisitely and the restoration supervised by Francis Ford Coppola himself looks fantastic. The action set pieces are amazing, most notably the helicopter strike on the Vinh Dinh Drop beach which is worth the ticket price itself. The use of surround sound is one of the best I have heard, you really think the helicopters are flying around the cinema.

The one thing that had always put me off watching the film is its running time, I have the Redux version (which is about to be re-released on Blu-ray) is three hours long, however, this restoration is only two and a half hours. Though the movie has a really good pacing and flies by up until the last half hour which gets a little more introverted and less entertaining as Willard meet Kurtz.

Major motion picture studios no longer make films like this anymore; essentially a big budget, long, shocking and violent road movie. And in the wake of sequels, prequels, remakes and reboot this Summer.

I would thoroughly recommend those who have not seen the film to go watch it and people who have only seen it on televsion or DVD will be blown away by how visceral and captivating it is in the cinema.

Michael Hill | [rating=5]

War, Drama |USA, 1978| 15 | May 27, 2011(UK) | Studiocanal | Dir.Francis Ford Coppola |Martin Sheen, Marlon Brando,Robert Duvall, Laurence Fishburne, Harrison Ford

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