Apocalypse Now (1979)

Apocalypse Now poster#3 – Apocalypse Now (1979) – Top 10 Favorite War Films

Directed By: Francis Ford Coppola
Produced by:  Francis Ford Coppola
Written By:  Francis Ford Coppola
Music by:  Carmine Coppola
Cinematography by:  Vittorio Storaro
Rating: R
Aspect Ratio: 2.00 : 1
Running Time: 153 min / 202 min (Redux )

Cast: As:
Marlon Brando Col. Walter Kurtz
Robert Duvall Lt. Col. Kilgore
Martin Sheen Capt. Ben Willard
Frederik Forrest Chef
Albert Hall Chief Phillips
Sam Bottoms Lance Johnson
Laurence Fishburne Mr. Clean
Dennis Hopper Photographer
G.D. Spradlin General
Harrison Ford Col. Lucas

The text below is part of a series of articles originally published May 25th – June 6, 1999.

When I first saw Apocalypse Now as a teenager it blew me away. The opening scene showing virgin palm tree groves being torched by napalm as The Doors’ song The End lilts away in the background, is truly haunting and sets the mood for the entire experience.  Just prior to the release Apocalypse Now, another fine Vietnam war film was released.  Unfortunately, The Boys in Company C (1978) was quickly forgotten and ignored by the critics.  But it gets honorable mention here.

Francis Ford Coppola took nearly three years to complete this epic, and almost nine months to edit.  Filming was completed in the Philippines and the madness that was portrayed on screen was also happening to some crew members.  Martin Sheen suffered a heart attack, and Coppola nearly went mad from all the pressure and demands the project put on him.

Apocalypse Now was the first Vietnam movie to show the true horror, destruction (physical as well as mental), and insanity of that conflict, even before Platoon.  Coppola adapted the script from Joseph Conrad‘s classic Heart of Darkness.  In the story, the withdrawn Captain Willard (Martin Sheen) is charged with carrying out a top secret mission deep into perilous Cambodia to assassinate the renegade Colonel Kurtz (Marlon Brando).  Kurtz has disconnected himself from the military and created his own base of insanity.  As Willard is ferried upriver, he encounters the bizarre people and twisted situations that are said to have existed during the Vietnam conflict.  One of the most memorable characters is Lt. Colonel Kilgore (Robert Duvall).  Duvall has created one of the most memorable fictional military personas in movie history.  Kilgore’s presence and complete command of every situation is unquestionable.  And who can forget his classic line:  “I love the smell of napalm in the morning . . . smells like . . . victory.”  And as Willard narrates, Kilgore knew he wasn’t going to get a scratch in Vietnam.  Martin Sheen also pulls off one of his most memorable performances.  Marlon Brando throws his personal quirkiness into the character of Colonel Kurtz, and Dennis Hopper basically plays himself as a wired, hopped up photographer.

Apocalypse Now received eight Academy Award nominations, and ended up taking home two: Best Sound and Best Cinematography. Apocalypse Now is ranked #28 on the American Film Institutes top 100 films.  To experience the insanity that war can created (not just the violence) head out to your local rental store and check it out.

Note:   I’m revisiting and re-posting many older articles (almost 200) I’ve written (or contributed to) over the years, either for my own purposes or as contributions to other sites now long digitally decayed and dormant.  These reviews/articles will appear in their nearly raw, unaltered form, with a few updated thoughts at the beginning of each.

About Neal Ulen

Neal Ulen

Editor/Webmaster – Neal is a writer and recovering engineer who likes pizza, the insidious power of sarcasm (and pizza), and debating science fiction (and pizza). You can also find his writing on Omni, Geeks, and other media platforms.