Apocalypse Now Redux (1979) Review

Apocalypse Now (Redux) | One Sheet | Movie Posters | Limited Runs

Films can become so iconic, with so many scenes burned into pop culture and cinematic legend, that its difficult to remember where it all came from initially. As you watch Apocalypse Now, you are soon reminded that this film is more than just the handful of “greatest scenes” or “greatest quotes” that punctuate its run-time but instead is a master-class is war movie-making and perhaps the greatest war movie ever made.

That’s because Oliver Stone understands and portrays the chaos of war perfectly here. The film has a story, we will get to that later, but plays out as a series of smaller acts and even smaller movies, as we follow Martin Sheen through every possible facet of the Vietnam war. That means we get fire-fights in villages, the absurdity and insanity of Lieutenants with too much power and not enough to do. The anarchy when soldiers are left with no one in charge and of course, what happens when the war actually sends you mad.

Picture of Apocalypse Now | Cinema photography, Film inspiration, Apocalypse  now redux

That could be said for both Sheen’s Captain Willard or his target for assassination, Marlon Brando’s Colonel Kurtz. Sheen makes the epic journey across Vietnam to find Kurtz in his remote location, living as a worshipped god. The character is teased perfectly throughout the film, foreshadowing this great figure who may well be the death of our “hero” or even could be correct with his cult-like philosophy. You build someone this well, they could eventually be a disappointment but Brando, even this far into his career, was still a fantastic actor and played Kurtz as a shadowy (literally), mysterious and quietly spoken but relentlessly intimidating person. Its a masterclass of making every small scene and minor moment on-screen count.

Its also testament to Apocalypse Now that this is the final act of the movie and the journey getting to Kurtz is as interesting and engrossing as the outcome. The movie is full of fantastic cinematic moments, from burning bridges lighting up the sky to resemble a festival, the desolate land of a deserted base camp or the final location, which resembled something from a voodoo-themed movie rather than a war one.

Apocalypse Now: Final Cut': Coppola's Surreal Vietnam Epic Returns -  Rolling Stone

Add to this the impressive cast of powerhouse actors, many of which get very little screen-time but make it count. From Robert Duvall as the surf-obsessed Lieutenant, a young Laurence Fishburne as a fresh-faced boat gunner or Dennis Hopper as a Kurtz obsessed war photographer. Even by 1979, these actors were well-known and its a compliment to the quality of the movie, and Stone himself, that they wanted to be involved even if the screen-time was minimal.

The version I watched was the Redux. This means all the added scenes and deleted elements put back in and as epic as the movie already was, this adds to it even more. It also means we do get some of the scenes that we didn’t need placed back in, none more so than a stilted stop with French colonists. Its a scene which sucks the momentum out of the movie and is one of a few times the film can be slightly self-indulgent, or over-ambitious, with the story its trying to tell.

Overall, Apocalypse Now is a master-class in movie-making and one of, if not the best war movie. It has a compelling story but doesn’t allow itself to get concerned with telling it, rather spotlighting key moments on the journey and highlighting the absurdity of war. The cast are fantastic, from Sheen through to much foreshadowed Brando. The Redux version perhaps contains too much but its a minor gripe in an almost perfect movie.

Rating – 5!

(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)

See These Incredible Exclusive Images from 'Apocalypse Now Final Cut'

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