Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Apocalypse Now

I borrowed Apocalypse Now from a friend. This is the 1979 Viet-Nam classic that stars the who's-who of the 1970's and 80's cinema.

Per typical Francis Ford Copula-style, this is not your average Viet-Nam war movie. When we think of Viet-Nam movies, we now think of Full Metal Jacket, Hamburger Hill, and Platoon. This movie is more about being set in Viet-Nam during the war and less about the war.

The movie stars Martin Sheen as Captain Benjamin Willard, who could easily be confused as a young Charlie Sheen, but not a young Emilio Estevez. He is a soldier who specializes in secret missions. He won't even tell the general which missions he was on. Or, in the words of scientology's craziest psychopath - Tom Cruise, he could tell you, but then he'd have to kill you.

Sheen is sent on a mission up a river into Cambodia (but that's a secret). He's going to use extreme prejudice and eliminate the unstable Colonel Kurtz (Marlon Brando). He's holding out in Cambodia with some sort of native dope smoking love camp. And we all know that the government needs to eliminate dope smoking love camps.

The majority of the movie focuses on Sheen's daydreams and the ride up the river. Along the way he runs into the irascible surf-nut Lieutenant Colonel Bill Kilgore, played by Robert Duvall, where you see the infamous Ride of the Vulcary attack on the river village. If you know anything about this movie, then you know the quote, "I love the smell of napalm in the morning." This is Lieutenant Colonel Kilgore at his finest moment. This is right before he sent some soldiers out on surf boards to check out the waves - this during a firefight.

Also making appearances in the movie are Harrison Ford, Laurence Fishburn, Frederic Forrest, Dennis Hopper (at least he wasn't selling retirement services on the beach this time), and R. Lee Ermey (gunny from Mail Call and Full Metal Jacket).

Overall, the movie is very artistic and less action-oriented as I seem to recall. The audience is supposed to be intrigued by the thoughts and pains of Captain Willard. Light is an important element along with extended sections of hypnotising music and sounds. You can interpret this to mean that they will play songs by The Doors. This would explain why Apocalypse Now also earned 2 Oscars, one for Best Sound and the other for Best Cinemotography, though different from my version of cinematography. I watched this movie when I was in my early teens and thought it was pretty cool. I am assuming I thought it was cool because of all the gunship fighting and the potty mouth. Being less in tune with the intended deepness of the movie gave me a different interpretation of the movie then than what I get now.

That being said, I think I would prefer to stick with my teenage impression of the movie. I'm less inclined to like artistic movies, unless, of course, there's good cinematography.

Apocalypse Now is rated R for violence, lots of it, profanity, lots of it, and adult situations. The movie three days long, though only 153 minutes if you watch it straight through to the end, a formidable task indeed.

I gave Apocalypse Now 4 stars. The movie had a great impact on moviedom and starting giving the audience a different view of what it was like in Viet-Nam. I believe it spawned other movies like the ones mentioned earlier. Though some may say that The Deer Hunter inspired Apocalypse Now. You should watch this movie not so much because it's a good movie, but because it is a part of Americana.

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