Wednesday 9 June 2010

Apocalypse Now [1979]

Apocalypse Now, often called Francis Ford Coppola’s last great movie, almost never got made, because of shooting delays and overshoot of budget; fortunately for us, Coppola somehow managed pool in his money and got it done. The film’s dazzling and hallucinatory opening sequence – images of napalm bombing juxtaposed with Martin Sheen’s Capt. Willard suffering in a sweaty, sleazy hotel room, with The Door’s mesmerizing “The End” ironically playing in the background – has attained legendary status. The plot concerns Willard being sent on a clandestine mission to Cambodia to assassinate Kurtz, a brilliant renegade Colonel who, the army top brass feels, has gone insane. A harrowing portrait of the Vietnam War and a nightmarish vision of the characters’ psychoses and their collective descent into madness, the film is less about the actual assassination and more about Willard’s life-altering Odyssey and his growing obsession with Kurtz. Martin Sheen is amazing as the moody, laconic and emotionally detached Willard. The film also boasts of two terrific supporting roles in the form of Robert Duval’s psychotic, Wagner-loving Col. Kilgore, and Dennis Hopper’s crazy photojournalist who worships Kurtz as if he were god. Unfortunately, Marlon Brando doesn’t really manage to live up to the electric buildup that his character (Kurtz) is given in the first three-quarters of the film.

Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Genre: War Epic/Adventure
Language: English
Country: US


Just Another Film Buff said...

A great, great film. Coppola once remarked that his film is not about Vietnam, it IS Vietnam. I'm not sure what you mean by the closing statement - Brando is what grounds the movie back from the mythical realm to the real. I still haven't managed to see the Redux.

Shubhajit said...

Yeah, I read that remark of Coppola's. Let's just say, modesty wasn't his best quality ;)

And well, what I meant by my closing statement is that, given the kind of buildup that Kurtz's character gets, and consequently the hype surrounding him - how brilliant an armyman he is, how firebrand a speaker he is - Brando somehow failed to live up to my massive expectations of his character.

Contrarily, your remark that he brought the film from the mythical realm to the real, does make sense though.

Sam Juliano said...

"A harrowing portrait of the Vietnam War and a nightmarish vision of the characters’ psychoses and their collective descent into madness, the film is less about the actual assassination and more about Willard’s life-altering Odyssey and his growing obsession with Kurtz."

Aye Shubhajit, precisely and beautifully-worded. It's a landmark for all kinds of reasons, and in reputation and reverence it seems to be closing in on THE GODFATHER films among Coppola's celebrated output. There's a fantastic documentary on the film, HEARTS OF DARKNESS, narrated by Coppola's wife, which is a fascinating account on the making of the film and all the difficulties endured.

I am a huge fan, as I'm sure you are of Conrad's short story masterpiece.

Rama Rama said...

The only thing I remember about Marlon Brando in the film is the dialog, "You're an errand boy, sent by grocery clerks, to collect a bill. " :-)

Shubhajit said...


Thanks a lot Sam. Well, in a way yes, Apocalypse Now does rank alongside Godfather & Godfather II as Coppola's most celebrated work, though it lacked the subtlety & restraint of Godfather. I'm quite interested in watching the Redux version though, if I'm not wrong, it met with mixed reactions upon release.

As for the Conrad story the movie was adapted from, unfortunately I haven't read it. And yes, I've heard about the documentary that you've mentioned, will look out for it.

Shubhajit said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Shubhajit said...


That was some dialogue, wasn't it? The perfect mix of arrogance, sarcasm, anger and bitterness.

Yayaver said...

There was a mythical buildup about Brando's character in this movie but he was good in it. I will not say genius but the images of his killing by Martin Sheen appeared in my dreams few days of movie viewing. And it is the best movie on the war seen by me. Good review man..

Shubhajit said...

Thanks buddy. Well, I'm not saying Brando was not good, just that he somehow didn't reach the kind of crescendo required to match the hype & hoopla surrounding his near-mythic character courtesy the intriguing and compelling buildup it received. Just my humble opinion.

Roy said...

@Shubhajit: The awards and the enthusiastic comments speak for themselves but I'll go ahead and say "Wow! What a blog!". While you used to work with us I had absolutely no idea that you had such an abiding interest in the movies and the arts, and were so good at expressing it too. Your blog looks awesome and so read its contents!

BTW watch the "Redux" version, I am betting my last rupee that you'll change your rating to 5 on 5. It sure has some critical madness inducing scenes which you HAVE to check out!

Shubhajit said...

Anruranjan Da, nice hearing from you.

Thanks a lot for the appreciation. Yes, irrespective of what I do on the professional front, my first love has will always remain "the arts".

Yeah, I do need to watch the 'Redux' version, but opinion is divided among cinephile about its quality vis-a-vis the original version.

Roy said...

Can I say "Wow, what a super- fast reply!" too :P?

Well to tell you the truth I have watched only the Redux version but if the additions include (something which I researched on later) (1) the plantation family scenes (2) the Playboy bunnies in the plane scenes, then I can't imagine a Apocalypse Now without it. The madness of a war would seem totally insufficiently expressed without those scenes. Only my personal opinion of course.

Shubhajit said...

Well, I'm doing Accountancy assignment right now. So, you see, it doesn't take much to divert my mind from "work" to "play" ;)

I'll do lookout for the Redux version.