Movie Reviews: Apocalypse Now Redux




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     Miramax (3hr. 23min.)
     A young American captain during the Vietman war is given the assignment to hunt down and kill one of his own, a colonel, who has apparently gone insane.
     Marlon Brando, Martin Sheen, Laurence Fishburne, Albert Hall Robert DuVall and Dennis Hopper
Bottom Line:

Frank Bell

When Francis Ford Coppola made Apocalypse Now 22 years ago, he created not just another war film — he created an institution.

The film hacked a path around the Hollywood jungle, clearing the way for later successes such as Oliver Stone’s Platoon and Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket as well as a score of other films that dealt with the insanity of the war that ripped holes in the social fabric of the U.S. for more than a decade.

A loose retelling of Joseph Conrad’s "Heart Of Darkness," Apocalypse Now is set against the confusion of the Vietnam war with 49 minutes of footage originally cut from the 1979 release.

"This new, definitive version of the film is sexier, funnier, more bizarre, more romantic and more politically intriguing," Coppola said. "The new version doesn’t say anything differently than the old one. It just says it better and with more complexity — and the themes emerge more clearly."

Although the film’s running time is now well more than three hours, it hasn’t lost its hypnotic and chilling effect upon the viewer.

For the first time, audiences will be able to see the French plantation scene as well as scenes on the Navy river patrol boat that make Martin Sheen’s character of Capt. Willard much more human and sympathetic. The same can be said for Marlon Brando’s Col. Kurtz, always meant to be more than a soliloquizing psychopath. In added scenes he at times becomes a personification of the average Vietnam soldier’s daily frustration.

An added scene where Willard and the sailors on the patrol boat steal war-loving Col. Kilgore’s (Robert Duvall) beloved surfboard after an intense battle with the Viet Cong is unforgettable if only for the reason that it might be the only time Sheen’s character laughs and smiles during the story.

"There’s more camaraderie now," Coppola said. "Willard jokes with the crew. They enjoy the conspiracy of stealing Kilgore’s surfboard. They all start off kind of normal — and that naivete helps underscore the tragedy of what befalls them as their journey unfolds."

The re-release means that thousands who were too young to remember the film when it was released or who have seen it on video only will now have the chance to see it on the big screen, a much more fitting canvas for Coppola’s ballet-like battle scenes.

Although digital effects have allowed filmmakers to do what was once considered impossible, for sheer craftsmanship films such as Pearl Harbor can’t hold a candle the film’s sequence of the Air Cavalry raid on an enemy village.

All the old memorable scenes and dialogue from the 1979 release are still there, chronicling the absurdities of war as well as new scenes illustrating the "live for the now" mentality of many soldiers in-country at the time. One such added scene unfolds at a dilapidated, mud-soaked medevac base where Willard and crew are greeted by two soldiers — one naked, one dressed — roughhousing in a downpour near two water buffaloes labeled with paint in Army nomenclature: "BUFFALO, WATER, ONE EACH." It is the same base where Willard and the rest of the boat crew played by Albert Hall, Sam Bottoms, Frederic Forrest and a 14-year-old Laurence Fishburne have an unexpected rendezvous with the Playboy bunnies who make a disastrous appearance before thousands of soldiers at a remote military base early on in the film.

"In their way, the girls are the corresponding characters of those young boys on the boat, except they’re being exploited in sexual ways," Coppola said. "But it’s the same thing, you know how they’re being consumed — used up by a society that calls itself moral and yet isn’t."

But some of the added footage is distracting. Although the rancorous dinner conversation among Willard and the French plantation owners adds much more intellectually to the film, the seduction scene between Willard and Roxanne (Aurore Clement) seems a bit gratuitous, stilted and unnecessary.

Twenty-two years later, it’s hard not to notice the similarities between Marlon Brando’s Col. Kurtz and Robert Duvall’s Col. Kilgore save for the idea that Kurtz might be winning the war his way, but he can never come back to reality.

One ironic aspect of the original and the new version is that no matter how far the patrol boat gets from civilization, the crew never seems to run out of cigarettes.



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