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Apocalypse Now (1979)

The Horror. . . The Horror. . .

Rating: 10/10

Running Time: 202 minutes

US Certificate: R UK Certificate: 18

On DVD

Country: United States

Make no bones about, Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now is the finest war film ever made. There have been many amazing war films but, ultimately, Full Metal Jacket and Saving Private Ryan are both too flawed to be masterpieces, The Deer Hunter tried too hard and the Hurt Locker was good but not great.  Apocalypse Now tries to be different and has it all – exciting action, unforgettably good, mad and bad characters and choice lines galore.

It’s the middle of the Vietnam War and Captain Willard (Sheen) is sent on a highly classified mission deep into enemy territory to assassinate Captain Kurtz (Brando), a former Green Beret who has gone AWOL and instilled himself as a commander and God in his own little jungle kingdom. On the way he sees the horrors of war and gets help from a series of US Marines and the deliciously nutty Lieutenant Colonel Bill Kilgore (Duval).

So many memorable moments are packed in that have ingrained themselves into our shared film consciousness never to be forgotten. One liners like “I love the smell of napalm in the morning’, a helicopter gunfight set to the classical Ride of the Valkyrie and Kurtz’s rambling speeches are just some of the iconic flashes of brilliance that stick out. The two big influences are obvious – Joseph Conrad’s classic novel The Heart of Darkness had the eponymous Kurtz lounging around the colonial jungles of the Congo supplying the book and film’s most iconic lines like “The Horror…” Secondly, the jungle-based historical fantasy of Werner Herzog’s Aguirre, der Zorn Gottes – feuding Director and genius lead man, jungle setting and impossibly difficult shooting schedule – is remarkably similar in more than just storyline.

Even though Marlon Brando blatantly does his best to ruin the film – by turning up on set drunk, vastly overweight and not having read the source material – he somehow makes his portrayal of Captain Kurtz even more chilling, as both the actor and the character look like they are losing their once-brilliant minds. Robert Duval makes much of his relatively minor role as the effortlessly cool Kilgore and this was Martin Sheen’s first defining role after mainly being confined to TV roles beforehand.

It's Got: A very young Laurence Fishburne and Harrison Ford, a very ill-looking Marlon Brando and a very cool Robert Duval.

It Needs: For you to watch both the standard and Redux versions and then make up your own mind.

DVD Extras It has to be the Redux version - 49 extra minutes of footage which features some successful inclusions (WIllard meeting the French colonists) and some pretty redundant (the playboy bunnies). Disappointingly, there are no making of documentaries like Hearts of Darkness or any exploration of the source material, just a solitary trailer. DVD Extras Rating: 1/10

Summary

In my opinion, this is the best and most iconic war film to date. It’s packed with thrilling action, memorable characters and a refreshing dose of surealism and madness that make it slightly different from the rest. Apocalypse Wow more like.

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