Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Apocalypse Now (1979)

It's Huck Finn with killing and twice as many black people.

Some movies are such a part of the modern cultural identity that they seem cliche the first time you watch them. I was a little bit ashamed to admit that I had never seen Apocalypse Now before recently, but, after watching it, I was struck with a strange sense of familiarity with the film. Apocalypse Now has become something of a cultural icon. It inspired countless initiations and has in immeasurable effect on film making and culture. Apocalypse Now defines the idea of a must-see movie and, even with it's flaws, it is one of the more effective and interesting war movies out there.

Apocalypse Now is partially based of the book Dispatches, but owes more of it's creative influence to Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness. The story follows a slightly crazy special ops soldier, Martin Sheen, as he takes a tripe down a river into Cambodia in an attempt to kill a slightly crazier rogue commander, Marlon Brando. Their surreal trip includes tiger fights, death by spear and Playboy playmates. Aside from the stars previously mentioned, the film also includes Harrison Ford, Robert Duvall, Laurence Fishburne and Dennis Hopper. Directed by the legendary Francis Ford Coppola, Apocalypse Now was, and is, a critics darling, it won a pair of Academy Awards, it was nominated for eight, and it commonly tops lists of greatest war films ever made. A movie as esteemed as Apocalypse Now creates some pretty overwhelming expectations, but this time around the film lives up to the vast majority of them.

The biggest thing that Apocalypse Now has going for it is the complexity. There is a lot of symbolism and complexity that really makes the movie standout in the long run. Each layer of the film offers something more to the audience, but it also works because the film plays fine with just a simple viewing. I greatly appreciate films that offer a satisfactory viewing experience on a casual watch, but still retain the complexity for future viewings. The performances in Apocalypse Now are all solid, in particular Robert Duvall's supporting performance is magnificent, and pretty much everything else is solid. There is some clear evidence of the films production trouble, in particular Marlon Brando being insanely overweight, but most of it gives the movie a strange feeling. It's hard to describe, but the movie has an unique feel to it that only the disastrous circumstances surrounding the movie could create. The one glaring problem with the film is the really strange soundtrack. The synthesizer music dates the movie in a way that prevents it from being the timeless classic that it could be.

Apocalypse Now is, without a doubt, one of the most influential movies made in the last 50 years. It may not be my favorite movie about the Vietnam War, but it is certainly an interesting glimpse into the time. I'm happy to have checked the movie off my list of films to see, especially since I will be traveling to Vietnam in about a month, and I would recommend the film highly. Apocalypse Now deserves the title of must-see film and I'm looking forward to viewing the Redux version of the movie in the future.



CMrok93 said...

I have been wanting to see the Redux version for quite a long time now. But I never understood why have their been so many versions of this anyway. Don't get me wrong, it's a great film, it just doesn't seem that legendary compared to other war films.

paul said...

one of the best films of our time period .

The Floating Red Couch said...

let's not forget a young Harry Ford and Larry Fishburne -- D-Hopp and Albie Hall.

I've pretty much claimed Apoc Now as overrated yet completely iconic: like Rebel Without a Cause or Lost Boys.

Yes, it is one of the best 'Nam movies, yes it is filled classic imagery and it tells a dense and beautifully woven story. Considering how over budget it was, how much time it took to shoot, and how painful the process was, however, I'd call it a historic wash: a lesson in how even wonderful ends sometimes do not justify the means.

Amila Kanchana said...

I've not seem this movie yet,but I see the little keeps popping up among online movie community. I must hunt for this one too.