• Daniel Rae

Apocalypse Now Review

"Apocalypse Now", Paramount Pictures, 1979

For as long and drawn out as Ford Coppola's "Apocalypse Now" occasionally is, there's something beautifully entrancing about it that invites you into a unique world of detachment and insanity. Accompanied by an awkwardly patriotic soundtrack, this introspective war film often demands exposition-heavy attention, which, when given, explodes inward in vividly eerie ways, opening up America's enigmatic interference in Vietnam.

The power of Willard's story, rather than being found in the film's quiet moments, are instead brought to the forefront only occasionally, sporadicly scattered little-by-little in between the pockets of anxious cynicism that crafts this world of primal evil. This reflects the equally sporadic directions that narrative takes, whether it turns down something strange or returns back to something that feels familiar. Either way, it desperately tries to celebrate the situation these characters find themselves in, much like the characters themselves: This sort of attention to detail with the direction is what really sells the mystery and the moral obscurity of this film that comes from the notion of colonialism that the writing occasionally weaves in and comments on. This is backed up by the absence of clarity that it often leaves the audience with, cleverly peddling back to Willard's quest of the understanding of one's sanity. Ford Coppola is not afraid in presenting the argument of America's sloppy and omnipotent threat over Vietnam, presenting them through a lens that's ever-so slightly artsy, although never losing sight of the harrowing loneliness of these men. The imagery it dispenses is equal-parts cinematic and tangible; like a picture frame dripped in sweat. Featuring some compelling performances by Martin Sheen and Robert Duvall, Marlon Brando comes out as the blood-stained face of this film, manifesting how his character has fallen victim to the madness of war effortlessly.

Nevertheless, as much as I enjoyed these individual aspects that make up this choppy portrait of Vietnam, I didn't find myself taking to many portions of the journey. As much as I tip my hat off to the lengths the writing takes in making the experience a mysteriously patient-testing one, it's truly compelling moments that dig deep below the surface are few and far between: more so than I think It thinks. The toxic patriotism it underpins at the forefront of its sense of humanity is only channeled through a few different funnels, leaving some of its characters feeling stale; Certainly real, but not that interesting. This is ultimately due to the organised messiness of the structure; In its efforts to ground the story in a bleak reality, It sometimes fails in delivering it's power-of-simplicity.

In conclusion, for a film that's praised for its unfiltered and disturbing qualities that 'haunts' the audience, I only found that to be the case during only a few segments of its runtime. Sure, it's a worthwhile watch. It's potently desperate and its tale of exploitation is a well-told one, but there are a few too many scenes that had me wishing I was watching Kubrick's "Full Metal Jacket" or Stone's "Platoon". Whilst, perhaps, more film-y watches, I would argue both those films manage to achieve the same pulpy web of masculine testosterone whilst telling more emotionally dynamic and compelling stories.

3.5/5 Stars

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