Apocalypse Now

Rated: R
Runtime: 2 Hours and 33 Minutes

Reviewer: Dale
Grade: A+

Some say that "The Godfather" is Coppola's best movie. Some even say that it's the best movie ever made. Don't get me wrong, "The Godfather" is pretty damn cool. I'm not saying it isn't. I'm just saying that it isn't Coppola's best film. Not by a long shot.

I have just watched "Apocalypse Now" for the second time in my life, and I must say that I short-shrifted it the first time I saw it. I have a history of that. Sometimes a movie... well, it just doesn't quite hit you the way it should upon first viewing. Sometimes it is necessary to give it a second shot, to see what that yields. In the case of "Apocalypse Now", it yielded quite a bit.

"Apocalypse" is the story of two men who have either hit the very edge of madness or are full-blown into it. It is about one man's quest to find and kill a high-ranking general who has made himself something of a god in the wilderness of Vietnam. It is his search for the reasons why the army wants this man dead. It is also the search for his own soul. It is a bizarre film, and that, I think, is why it may be the best war movie of all time. War itself is a bizarre concept, yet it is part of our humanity. How else can you explain the fact that we have gotten involved in so damn many of them. We are prone to violence against each other, both on a personal scale and on a national scale. It is part of our genetic structure, perhaps.
"Apocalypse" explores this and, like the greatest of great movies, allows you to make up your own mind on the subject.

"Apocalypse Now" is a harrowing, thrilling, sometimes humorous journey up the Vietnam river, back in time, and through the dark heart of humanity. It is said that Coppola himself went on something of a dark journey just to get the film made. The film is based upon the novel "The Heart of Darkness" by Conrad, but it has other literary allusions as well. It is part "Odyssey", even part "Huckleberry Finn", but it is also something unique, daring and wholly original. The screenplay takes the Vietnam experience and presents it to us as no other film has. Maybe it helped that the war had just ended and was still so vivid in so many minds. In fact, during the screenplay stage, the war was still going on. It takes the war and makes something mythic and symbolic and yet utterly realistic and plausible at the same time. The cinematography of the film is the true star, no offense to Martin Sheen and Marlon Brando, who are bothe quite good. The cinematography uses each shot to create a visual poem about the brutality and dark nature of man. It presents us many images and lines which have become part of the collective moviegoing consciousness. Lines like "The horror" or "I love the smell of Napalm in the morning." But until you have seen them in the proper context, you have no idea what you are missing. The helicopter attack and the boat inspection scenes in particular drive home both the viciousness, the thrill and the sheer unfocused lunacy of combat.

Then again, what do I know of combat? I've never even been in a schoolyard fight.

"Apocalypse Now" is a journey for the viewer as well, taking them to a place they have never seen before and letting them go, bruised and shaken and mesmerized on the other side.