Finding a film set in the Vietnam War is very easy, and several of the top American directors have produced them, and yet Apocalypse Now is the one that is on this list, and it is also one of three Coppola films here. While it is a stunning film, I cannot put my finger on why it is so highly lauded when in my opinion at least three films – Full Metal Jacket, Platoon, and Born on the Fourth of July – were more gripping, but there is no point in arguing that here.
Apocalypse Now is Francis Ford Coppola’s fourth major film of the 1970s; he had started to develop it while working on The Godfather. It is an adaptation of the novel Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, and stars Martin Sheen as Captain Benjamin L. Willard, a man given a mission to eliminate Colonel Walter E. Kurtz, played by Marlon Brando.
As I mentioned, the film is visually stunning and it is clear without watching the Heart of Darkness documentary that filming was grueling and seemed almost not worth the effort. We are left with a motion picture that was critically acclaimed upon release and was awarded several honors, which leaves me questioning what I may be missing.
I watched the Redux edition, a re-edit that Coppola released in 2000 which adds forty-nine minutes to the film, and while I imagine it better encapsulated Coppola’s vision for the film, it may have also muddied it down too much for me, almost to the point that I was not watching the same film that the critics and directors considered when compiling this list and adding it at number forteen.
I have a feeling that this is a movie that I will need to revisit sometime down the line. I cannot say that it is not a great movie; it is a great, big, epic war film. I thought that Martin Sheen’s performance was mesmerizing and if I was not considering this film among a list of perfect cinema, I may feel differently. Or, I may not; it is difficult to say.