APOCALYPSE NOW (Francis Ford Coppola)
NOTE: This review is based on the REDUX version, which is the 196-minutes director's cut.
Coppola, in a 3-minute Cannes excerpt included in the DVD summarized the whole APOCALYPSE NOW experience: he took us to a familiar place, then to stranger, and stranger lands. And it was damn beautiful.
APOCALYPSE NOW plays out like your regular war film: there's a kickass but insane mission, an antihero, some guns blazing, some political undertones about the war, and whatnot. After an hour the film gets bizarre, and then more bizarre. This is not your regular war film. Coppola dives into the murkiness of man's psyche and basic instinct and shows us multi layered characters who cannot be judged purely by their actions.
Martin Sheen is a Captain who has grown tired with the war. Marlon Brando is a rogue Colonel wanted dead by the military. Sheen is sent to kill Brando, but the mission is not as easy as it seems.
On a perilous mission that finds Sheen and his small boat crew crossing upstream Vietnamese waters until Cambodia, morality is tested and humanity is put to the test. During the most awaited scene where Sheen finally meets Brando, Brando does the talking: he blabbers about his philosophy, about how Sheen has the right to kill him, but not to judge him. This is exactly the difficult position Coppola put us into: though we know Brando may very well be an animal, still we cannot easily dismiss him as a criminal.
The ensemble cast features a very young Harrison Ford in a less than ten minutes role, an unrecognizable Laurence Fishburne, and a very buff Robert Duvall.
In some parts, Coppola treats the war as a sick joke, as when Duvall's character insisted on surfing while their enemies are being napalmed and the water is being bombed.
Coppola overtly expressed his disdain for the Vietnam War, (the evidences are so many you will drown in them) and he managed to excitingly tell them in a slow-building manner. No scene feels forced. At 196 minutes what more can you want?
No matter what your stance on the Vietnam War is, this is one must-see film for your consciousness.