Martin Sheen in Apocalypse Now.
My most vivid childhood movie going experience was seeing Apocalypse Now. The year was 1979, I was twelve and this movie absolutely blew me away. In those few hours I matured at least five years. This movie not only takes you to the front lines of the Vietnam war, which it does brilliantly, but is also an exploration deep into the psyche of the human animal with the conclusion that absolute power corrupts absolutely.
Based loosely on Joseph Conrad's The Heart of Darkness, this is the story of an American soldier (Martin Sheen) sent into the Cambodian jungle to find and kill another American soldier (Marlon Brando).
This film starts dark and yet Francis Coppolla manages to increase the sense of dread and foreboding as it goes along. The supporting cast includes 15 year old Lawrence Fishburne as well as veterans Robert Duvall and Dennis Hopper.
There are many classic moments here, including the battle scene where Duvall's character says his famous line. 'I love the smell of napalm in the morning.' This movie goes beyond just the 'war is hell' motif of other films to a truly scarier place. That within each of us is the capacity for pleasure at the suffering of others.
Marlon Brando gives his last great performance as the insane General who has created his own 'paradise' in the jungle, with himself as supreme deity. Who can forget his chilling final words? 'The horror, the horror.'
Still this is a director's movie and as such belongs to Coppolla. He has given us a serious vision of humanities darker side and one hell of an entertaining movie to boot.
Marlon Brnado in Apocalypse Now.
This film goes far deeper than what Patrick has written. His conclusion that power corrupts is correct, however this movie has next to nothing to do with that. Martin Sheen's journey into the jungle to find and kill the philosophy spouting, wannabe deity Marlon Brando is metaphysics defined. Martin Sheen's character at the beginning of the film has lost all sense of reality. He's drunk and suicidal.
During the trip to kill Brando's character, Sheen begins to return to his senses. The scenes of battles and go-go dancers become more and more surreal, and in such sober him up. Killing Brando's character, who is definitely having problems with his sense of reality, is the final step in saving Sheen's mind and returning him to a world of comprehension.
A thinking man's war movie.
Robert Duvall loves the smell of naplam in the morning in Apocalypse Now.
Some movies entertain, others make you think. Truly great movies do both. Apocalypse Now, is not a great movie. Because, while it does make you think, it does not, in my opinion, entertain you.
Yes, there are classic moments in this movie, but collections of moments do not always add up to classic films.
There isn't a single character in this movie that I care about. The only actor that I enjoy and who seems to be enjoying himself, is Robert Duvall. And I know this is a movie about war and they shouldn't be enjoying themselves, but I don't care what movie it is, if I don't care about the characters, I'm going to become bored very quickly.
Coppolla does create a mood with this film, which Martin Sheen's narration enhances, but it's not enough of a mood to carry my interest throughout the entire, overly long movie.
This is one thinking man, whose war movie this most emphatically, is not.
Photos © Copyright Zoetrope Studios (1979)