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Apocalypse Now (1979)


In the grand tradition of movies that explore the reality that is the Vietnam War, one film stands out — for defying reality.

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.