027 - Apocalypse Now (1979)

Before I write the review, I should make a confession... I bought the Apocalypse Now Redux version which contains "49 additional minutes of never-before-seen footage". Having never seen the "original" state of the film, this review may not be completely accurate to the version featured in Empire Magazine.

Apocalypse Now is the third epic war film on the 500 - so far. It follows on from Alexander Nevsky and All Quiet On The Western Front. Those first two movies were completely contrasting in quality in my opinion, and Apocalypse Now finds the middle ground.

Apocalypse Now is about the Vietnam War. Made in the 1979, it is important to remember that the Cold War with the USSR was still in full throttle - and indeed the film itself was created just four years after the war had finished. While this means that accurate pictures can be taken front contemporary sources, it does also mean that the film may end up with a one-sided bias.

The storyline follows Captain Willard (Michael Sheen) as he treks up Nung River on an assassination mission in search of renegade Colonel Kurtz (Marlon Brando). On his journey he is joined by Hicks (Frederic Forrest), Johnson (Sam Bottoms), Phillips (Albert Hall) and Miller (a young Laurence Fishburne). Naturally the river if thriving with determined Vietnamese, slightly crazy American soldiers seemingly under no command, along with a couple of American outposts.

Theatrical Poster

The film begins well, showing Willard's eagerness to get back into war equally combined with his fear. Sheen portrays these mixed emotions well, summed up in the line "when I was there I wanted to be here, and when I am here I want to be there".

Following Willard's appointment to his mission, the film gradually seeps into a more surreal nature. One crazed captain - Lt. Col. Bill Kilgore (Martin Sheen) - is more concerned with enjoying the Vietnam surf than he is with fighting the Vietamese themselves. This provides much of the humour at the start of the film, which is a pleasant change from the bloody slaughter that surrounds them. When Kilgore is looking for his surfboard again it is one of the funniest moments in cinema, ever.

After this meeting, the movie begins to enter a psychedelic stage, where the people Willard meets up-stream become weirder and weirder, the closer to Cambodia he gets. Although this may show how war psychologically affects man, it gives the film a broken film as one scene swiftly moves onto another non-related scene.

I have read reviews that Redux is more for the hardcore fan of the original, but unfortunately, at present, this is the only one I have to work on. In my opinion, the extra 49 minutes may well have hampered an otherwise excellent film.


  1. This is one of my top ten favorite films. The redux version does not make the film better and problem just adds extra unnecessary baggage, but it didn't bother me. I think the film is often misunderstood because people watch it too literally. At least you acknowledge the surrealistic and psychedelic aspects which to me adds to the film's greatness. I tend to look at the film as an adult warscape version of Wizard of Oz. It's one crazy story that seems more like a dream than anything that could have ever really happened in this world.

    Tossing It Out

    1. I admit I didn't really understand it - as you say I was probably watching it too literally.

      You have an interesting interpretation of the film.


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