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Apocalypse Now (1979)
Apocalypse Now is a 1979 American epic war film set during the Vietnam War, directed and produced by Francis Ford Coppola and starring Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall, and Martin Sheen. The central character is US Army special operations officer Captain Benjamin L. Willard (Sheen), of MACV-SOG, an assassin sent to kill the renegade and presumed insane Special Forces Colonel Walter E. Kurtz (Brando). The screenplay by John Milius and Coppola came from Milius's idea of adapting Joseph Conrad's novella Heart of Darkness into the Vietnam War era. It also draws from Michael Herr's Dispatches, the film version of Conrad's Lord Jim (which shares the same character of Marlow with Heart of Darkness), and Werner Herzog's Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972). The film drew attention for its lengthy and troubled production. Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse documented Brando's showing up on the set overweight, Sheen's heart attack, and extreme weather destroying several expensive sets. The film's release was postponed several times while Coppola edited millions of feet of footage.
Martin Sheen stars as Captain Willard, sent upriver in war-torn 'Nam to 'terminate, with extreme prejudice' one Colonel Kurtz (Brando), a former green beret who has gone primal all the way in Cambodia and has taken on the guise of a god to the local people of the area.
Coppola takes the novel Heart of Darkness and moves it up a few dozen years to get the desired effect of plopping the audience in the great unknown and, at the same time, scaring the bejeezus out of us. Willard's trip upriver starts with the merely peculiar, with Robert Duvall's 'Flight of the Valkyries' air raid and 'Charlie don't surf!' speech as he sends his troops out to catch some waves. From there, things just get twisted, culminating in a face-off with the decidedly creepy Brando/Kurtz at the end of the line.
Mired in controversy, delays, and a cost that ultimately almost tripled its initial budget, Apocalypse Now is a real must-see and one hell of a ride. The horror, the horror.
Recut and extended in 2001 as Apocalypse Now Redux.
The new 'complete dossier' includes both Now and Redux, and copious extras: Brando reading the entirety of 'The Hollow Men' (17 minutes long), a lost and additional scenes, commentaries on both versions of the film, and a selection of featurettes designed for young filmmakers. It's all packaged on two DVDs. Very highly recommended.
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