Movie Review: No 35. Apocalypse Now

Movie Review: No 35. Apocalypse Now

Kurtz: The horror… the horror…

Honestly, I could just leave my review at that… but I won’t.

I feel compelled to provide you all with a sterner warning as to why you should not waste 3 hours of your lives on this film.

Apocalypse Now Martin Sheen

Sheen enjoys his Vegemite for breakfast, lunch and… MURDER.

Then again, I’m starting to get the feeling that these movie reviews are saying more about me than the quality of the films I’m watching. Surely the imdb Top 100 list can’t be as bad as my reviews are making it out to be?

To test the theory, I’m going to approach this review a little differently…

I’ve decided to read some other (more positive) reviews of this film to understand how it got its spot at number 35 on the Top 100 list when my own ranking would leave it lurking somewhere in the murky depths of the most rotten of rotten tomatoes. To me, this film has a premise only a mother could love. I’d sooner watch a 3 hour marathon of ‘Acropolis Now’ than watch this trash again.

Effie Acropolis Now


So, in the interests of balanced reporting, bring on the positive reviews!

“It’s the insane beauty of APOCALYPSE NOW that makes it a masterwork of cinema and says more in its running time about the brutality of conflict and the hypocrisy of politicians (What did you do in the Vietnam War Mr President?) than Michael Moore could hope to say in a lifetime.” – 10 stars Theo Robertson (imdb user review)

I have to agree with Robertson on the “beauty” aspect. With a budget weighing in at $31.5 million, Coppola spared no expense. Set in Vietnam but filmed in the Philippines, this film is stunningly beautiful (if you can squint past the disembodied heads you can just make out the picturesque rivers and villages). As to the hypocrisy of politicians… I’m not so sure about that. Maybe I just didn’t “get it” because I’m an Aussie and the Vietnam War didn’t feature heavily in my modern history education… then again maybe it’s just because my brain isn’t addled with malaria, malnutrition or marijuana and I can still think straight enough to recognise that Kurtz is a crazy SOB and you probably shouldn’t take much notice of what he’s ranting about – whether it’s about the hypocrisy of politicians or anything else!

“Clearly it is a highly allegorical work as is the novel it is derived from : “Heart of Darkness” by Joseph Conrad. It says much about the human condition in general not only within the context of war. Strictly speaking the film charts Willard’s path through hell and ultimately to redemption. In reality Martin Sheen, who plays Willard, did practically the same thing. Reputedly smoking and drinking just a shade too much until half way through the filming he suffered a heart attack.” – 10 stars janet-55 (imdb user review)

Well that is an interesting factoid, I’ll give you that. Like father, like son? I can also agree that the film touches on some interesting points about the human condition. If nothing else, tune in for Kurtz’s story about the Polio vaccinations – It’s enough to leave you shaking in your boots. If you perceive the film as an allegory and apply its themes to other aspects of life, it becomes more interesting. Then again, you all know my feelings on thinking too much during movies.

Strangely enough, Apocalypse Now’s signature scene comes early in the piece. The flight of the helicopters over the village to the tune of Wagner’s Ride Of The Valkyries is so memorable that the two have literally become one. Many a listener can no longer hear the music without thinking of the film… Matter of fact, some of the music heard in this film is just as haunting as the story being told. Which is saying quite a lot. – 10 starts mentalcritic (imdb user review)

Ahh, the music! The scene mentioned above is the highlight of the film. Having never seen the film before I can not say the song and scene are “literally” “one” to me, however I did sit up and pay attention. It is an epic scene and certainly a memorable one. For those who, like me, collect quotes as if they were rare coins, it provides great satisfaction to finally identify the source of this classic line:

Kilgore: I love the smell of napalm in the morning.

It is number 12 on the AFI’s list of ‘100 Years… 100 Movie Quotes’ (which, in my opinion, is far more reliable than the 2007 Premiere list), and along with “The horror… the horror…” was an unexpected yet welcome addition to my quote collection.

I could go on but I’m already recognising a trend… these positive reviews are doing little to change my mind. In fact, most of even the most glowing reviews recommend that you don’t watch the “REDUX” version (advice coming all too late for us unfortunately). My advice? If you do watch that version, just watch the first hour and the third hour – I promise you won’t miss anything.

Perhaps it’s not the case in the original cut, but this film DRAGS OUT like the death of a cockroach you couldn’t bring yourself to fully squash the first time around. In my opinion, it is a work of sheer ego. Coppola, riding off the glory and praise of what I am told are his masterpieces (The Godfather series, with parts 1 and 2 featuring at places 2 and 3 on the imdb list), clearly came to think he was invincible. He thought that he could traipse around the countryside with only a half-cocked idea and still get a gold star. Unfortunately those imdb users (like many critics before them) ate it up with a spoon… and gave him 10 gold stars each.

I am no animal rights activist to be sure, but even I cringed at the very graphic (and very real) scene of a bull being slaughtered. And, yes, I mean “real” not “realistic”. Holy cow.

Then there is the entirely pointless foray into the French nationals’ camp. That scene alone is reason enough to avoid this film. Then again, if you think 30 minutes of mind-numbing dinner party conversation is a fair price to pay for one sex scene, then please enjoy… with Sheen’s compliments.

2 pumpkins.

Have you seen ‘Apocalypse Now’? Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments below.


4 responses »

  1. Not what I would call an “entertaining” movie but it does stick with you. I would say along with Saving Private Ryan (which I notice you DID enjoy) it gives a frightening and perhaps(?) realistic depiction of war. Have to give it props for that at least.
    The behind-the-scenes facts are arguably more interesting than the plot itself.

    Anyway, I can’t wait for you to watch my “Does not appear in the top 100” movie. You seem to enjoy tearing apart terrible movies, so you will be in heaven :p

    • I may or may not have been born to tear up terrible movies. I look forward to it.

      I agree that it gives a frighteningly and presumably “real” depiction of war, but at the same time is suffers from a lack of plot.

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