Apocalypse Now (1979) – The Horror, the Horror

Francis Ford Coppola not only gained recognition and popularity after the Godfather trilogy. However, he also began to get many opportunities to direct films he had long planned despite various obstacles. Be “Apocalypse Now”, one of the best war films in any way. The movie, seen from anywhere and from any version, is actually about madness and dehumanization. It’s about how war works ambiguously, based on Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness”. The two-and-a-half hours’ movie was an acid trip to the story of psychedelic war into the mind of the protagonist. I watched the Redux two years ago. Now, I want to try to experience such a trip again into the Final Cut. It’s hit almost a three-hour movie regardless of the Redux is one of the longest.

“Apocalypse Now” is an ambitious project by Francis Ford Coppola. With a budget of around $30 million and took years the production, finally, this Vietnam war movie exist. Until now, critics always mention this movie as one of the best movies all time besides all the timeless cult-classic. The first opening sequence opens with an illustration of the mind of Michael Sheen as Captain Willard; the obsession with war. He is a soldier, not on a mission but feels anxiety. Anxiety arises because he was not on the battlefield, unlike the army in general. One day, Willard was suddenly happy after getting a call of duty.

For Willard, he just wanted to go through a mission once again but this should be the last time. Willard didn’t refuse. His current mission is to trace the whereabouts of Marlon Brando as Colonel Kurtz and then assassinate him. The colonel is a genius soldier yet a mysterious one. However, because of its perfection, Willard and Kurtz have one thing in common. Either they obsessed into the heart of darkness or throwing away their humanity in order to gain control of anything. In this mission, Willard must pass through various conditions of war like a world of hell. There are explosions, madness, corpses, morality, lack of common sense, and so on.

Unlike Willard, Kurtz is a hero and one of the best among all. He made his own army in a forest in Cambodia and called his soldiers as his children. For Willard, Kurtz is like a God, absorbing Willard and his soldiers on a ship through a lake; getting closer doesn’t know where he is but he knows how close he was. For Kurtz, he just didn’t accept one thing. It’s writing the F word on an airplane was illegal because it’s just too obscene to them. Therefore, Kurtz just wants to make a new home like people before Willard, he has forgotten his own home. Kurtz tries to infect Willard by his own horror and threat as well.

The movie, like I say, is a trip. It’s a trip of Willard’s lack of common sense. It’s about understanding Kurtz’ mind how he turned the horror of war into such a depth meaning. He can’t even live without Kurtz besides himself, only filled with such madness, despair, and hopeless. It’s just terrifying yet magnificent at the same time. It’s so poetic, one of the most haunting movies you could really find in cinema. There is one normal guy, Dennis Hopper as the mysterious photojournalist. For other reasons, he found Kurtz’s location but chose to stay in the first place. If only he exploited Kurtz, he would be killed. He explained everything; explained how he is such a genius with a God-complex mind. He is like a poet in a sense of beautifulness. He is the fool, the clown, but providing his child as a balanced way.

In the next 10 years, I bet if another new version of this movie would come. However, “Apocalypse Now” is clearly one of the gems in the filmmaking and cinema. Such a simple great sequence, you can really get everything into such a deeply complex analysis in one scene. Take for example Robert Duvall as Colonel Kilgore, the most insane person you could find in the war. You always remember his line, “I love the smell of napalm in the morning” or “it smells like victory”. Yet, his character is so deep to analysis. Even though we don’t see him too much on-screen, he is the opposite of the protagonist.

Kilgore is an obsession of war or more a man with so much dehumanization in war. He promoted his soldiers just because he shared the same hobbies as him: surfing. And told the army to surf on the beach while the war was still going on at the background. He marked the Vietnamese using a death card. He regarded the war as a game, like a card game or gambling. It’s about death or victory. And Richard Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries” is the most we really stick with it. He plays the song to scare the Vietnamese.

The movie, besides dehumanization and war, is about nature. Set in the forest, nature or the forest as in absorbing these characters to unite with itself. There is a moment where Willard arrives at the bridge. Some soldiers just wanted to go home and try to run away from the war. They were trying to get on their ship. But, there is a moment when the darkness permeates their anxiety; as in all of these characters didn’t know where they had to go and why they were in such places. There is a scene when Willard and his army hold a family on a boat, such a simple scene; but for some reason, it’s so powerful but very difficult if you look once.

“Apocalypse Now” is able to summarize everything in war from any point of view. In warfare, morality becomes ambiguous but doesn’t often change them into persons far different; because it’s war. It’s a war of change. Everyone changes in war no matter how we see all of them in a bias or one point of view. There are many heartbreaking scenes in war. Everything becomes logical if you think again. In war, madness occurs everywhere. “The End” by The Doors, the madness in Willard’s mind is in a random condition in his room. He really stuck in his room and in his own war.

Francis Ford Coppola plays all this “madness”, in addition to moral ambiguity, viscous. There is no black and white into all of these characters. The antagonist, Kurtz, is not really the scapegoat in here. “Apocalypse Now” is truly one of the best war films from all aspects and pushed everything into the darkness. Even Martin Sheen doesn’t recognize who exactly the character he played. It’s not about the propaganda or my thought about the overpowered in such a war. But, this is one of the most outstanding yet fascinating experiences you can get in the cinema.

5 out of 5 stars.

Salman Al Farisi

An Indonesian who loves to watch and read everything. A literary student who likes to write about reviews and essays on Crackdown Review. But, I just wannabe critics who love arthouse than anything.

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