Saturday, January 15, 2011

#231 Apocalypse Now (1979)


Director: Francis Ford Coppola

Cast: Martin Sheen, Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall, Frederic Forrest, Sam Bottoms, Laurence Fishburne, Albert Hall, Harrison Ford, Dennis Hopper

During the Vietnam War, Captain Benjamin Willard (Sheen) is prescribed a dangerous and top-secret mission to track down and terminate the command of a certain Colonel Kurtz (Brando)... with extreme prejudice. Having gone renegade in Cambodia, Kurtz is believed to have made himself a god to the natives, carrying out murderous and insane practices under the command of no one but himself. Captain Willard faces a harrowing journey of both the physical horrors of war as well the mental/emotional, as he battles with his own renegade feelings, doubts of authority and waning dedication to "the cause."

Setting aside all of the details of the creation of this film, (which I believe are very much a part of what makes this film so fascinating), Apocalyse Now is already an epic masterpiece. Perhaps one of my favorite films of this project so far, (having viewed a number of war epics for this project already), I am stricken and entranced by the way Coppola has chosen to remove the story from "the horrors of nam" to simply the madness of war. The ethereal take on the opening and end portions of the film provide a trance-like view into the fog of psychosis surrounding the organized execution of a nationwide mass-murder mission.

Some of the most intense moments of the film were those which were unplanned, unedited, and unscripted. Sheen's tirade alone his room at the film's start was merely Coppola letting the cameras run as Sheen drunkenly stumbled and threatened the film staff. Brando's shadow mystery (and strongest line "You're just an errand boy, sent by grocery clerks, to collect a bill") were all unintentional due to Brando's unpreparedness for the shoot. Some of the most captivating wreckage and violence were the result of an unexpected typhoon which devastated most of the sets, and the murderous slaughter of the bull... was real.

A very powerful film, which now added to my dossier, will no doubt be on regular rotation. Also, looking forward to someday soon reading the book The Making of Apocalypse Now by Peter Cowie. From what I've already sampled, the story of this picture's filming seems intense.

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