Movie: Apocalypse Now Redux
My Rating: 3 stars
I saw this movie about fifteen years ago (maybe more), and I absolutely hated it. It had felt like an interminable slog that didn’t really know where it was going. But, I was significantly younger. And, I definitely understand the value of waiting to watch something until you’re emotionally ready for it—either in terms of mood and energy level, or emotional maturity. So, when the Unspooled podcast got to this entry on the AFI top 100 films list, I decided that it was worth my time to give this movie another go. And, I definitely think it was worth it. I enjoyed the movie a lot better this time around. I don’t know if it’s because I’ve matured significantly, or if I understood better what to expect from it. But, this time around I knew well enough to embrace the tone of chaos and uncertainty.
There’s a lot going on in this movie—so many layers of sociopolitical statements and literary references. It’s Francis Ford Coppola’s epic drama, fusing the hopelessness and anarchy of the Vietnam War with the horrors and chaos of Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. Captain Willard (Martin Sheen) is sent on a secret mission to hunt down and kill Colonel Kurtz (Marlon Brando), who has gone utterly insane (both the character and the actor). The story takes Willard and his crew down the river right through the Vietnam war, and continues deep into Cambodia to find their target. There’s a lot of message here, and the film is very heavy-handed about it. The plot features one atrocity after another—sometimes with a hazy dream logic—and shrugs off each one with a sense of detached nihilism and inevitability. It’s a very depressing view of human nature, and it can really drag you down if you let it. If you approach this movie in a patient mood, the film is actually quite powerful and impacting. So, even though you can see many of the narrative “strings,” it’s executed in such a competent way that the film is worthy of respect.
This is an important movie. The acting is pretty amazing, and the cinematography is otherworldly. I agree wholeheartedly with its inclusion on the AFI top 100 movies list. And, I’ve reached a point where I have the patience and inclination to give all these significant films a go. I mentioned in previous reviews that I’ve actually been quite surprised by how many of the films I’ve genuinely enjoyed. And, this one was definitely better this second time around. It’s still not a wildly entertaining flick. But, it was never intended to be. And, there’s plenty of black humor alongside the ham-fisted drama, and I always enjoy a bit of that. I say this one is worthwhile. But approach it in the right mindset.