Apocalypse Now (1979)

Apocalypse Now

Director: Francis Ford Coppola Cast: Martin Sheen, Marlon Brando, Sam Bottoms, Laurence Fishburne aged 12, Robert Duvall

During the Vietnam war, an army captain is sent on a mission to kill a previously well-respected colonel who has lost the plot and formed a cult in the Cambodian jungle.

If I could describe this film in one word, it would be trippy. I watched this film a good few years ago now, but on a small, poor quality screen, and I don’t think it was quite able appreciate the claustrophobic and stressful nature of the film. The soundtrack is very very weird, which is key in emphasising the almost surreal nature of the chaotic Vietnam war. It actually won an Oscar for Sound, which I think it 100% deserved as the sound is so key to the emotions that the audience is supposed to feel. Much of the film takes place in the dark or at night, which adds to the claustrophobia as you can’t really tell what’s going on. Additionally, rarely do you get a wide landscape shot but rather the film is mostly close-ups, which again means you can’t get a full picture of the environment, and it just all feels very constricted and almost anxiety-inducing (its other Oscar was for Cinematography). Clearly, these are not emotions that you’d usually be comfortable with, but the film really does capture that side of what really was a significantly traumatic conflict.

I’ve heard a lot of people say that this film is boring, too long, and doesn’t really make a lot of sense. While I would agree that it is hard to make sense of much of what is going on in the physical environment, this is kind of the point (see above) and in reality the plot is actually very straight-forward. It is long, but I personally didn’t find this an issue and I can’t think of any particular part that isn’t relevant or is pointless.

This is probably one of the better war films I’ve seen, as it’s not simply a narrative of events but rather an attempt at getting across the realities of the Vietnam war (which I found it did very successfully). Not family viewing for sure, but it’s a good film and I would watch it again.

4 stars

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