Apocalypse Now follows Benjamin Willard (Martin Sheen), an American veteran in the Vietnam war tasked with locating a general (Marlon Brando) who has established himself as a god amongst people living in the Cambodian forest. Willard’s mission is not only to locate the rogue general, he must also terminate him… with extreme prejudice.
Apocalypse Now Redux is a re-release of the original Apocalypse Now with 49 minutes of added footage. I will be reviewing this as I have not seen the original cut of Apocalypse Now, I have only seen the redux and I’m told there’s a difference.
Apocalypse Now has usually found its way onto lists of the greatest films of all time and rightfully so. The source material of the film is deep, perfectly troubling, home to one of the largest messages ever conveyed by a moving picture and more, but all of this would be only half of the value of the final product. Coppola was the one who brought it to its full value.
The shots are haunting, beautiful and thoughtful all at once. And many scenes are chaotic, thought-provoking and controlled all at once. How did he do it? He shot 197 more hours of footage than he needed. It is sometimes considered that the key to success is volume.
I have read (from multiple sources) that Coppola shot over two-hundred hours of footage and after three years of editing (in case you were wondering, that’s a lot), the film was cut down to a runtime of two-and-a-half hours. That’s 197.5 hours of footage that didn’t make it to the cinema screen. There were another 50 minutes of footage added to the redux but I’ll get back to that.
After these three years of editing down 200 hours of footage, Coppola’s editing team somehow managed to find the perfect 2.5 hours of footage and also somehow managed to cut each scene perfectly. The transitions looks beautiful and the pacing of the editing is so perfectly timed that it’s almost unnoticeable.
Bringing back up Coppola’s directing, wow. This man knows how to make a movie.
There are plenty of scenes with at least a hundred extras and each one ranks among the most chaotic, most crowded and most controlled crowd scenes to ever be shot on film.
The scene with Robert Duvall’s men storming the beach is pure filmmaking brilliance. The excellent coordination of every actor on that beach, every helicopter in the air, every bullet that zooms past, every explosion that pops and the very steady movement of the camera truly is a mark of filmmaking brilliance.
Not just the beach scene, but many other scenes trickle with drops of Coppola’s fountain of directing genius. He more than proved it in The Godfather and he proved it even more in this.
The performances in Apocalypse Now are also spectacular (be them not as much as the direction). Martin Sheen brought the ribbon of silence in his performance that this film’s tone required to be complete.
Robert Duvall is only in a couple of scenes in the film but where he’s present, he shines like a vulgar diamond in the midst of a chaotic coal-mine. His delivery, his confident body movement, his fondness for the scent of napalm, it all comes together to form one great performance, as brief as it is.
And Marlon Brando, as much of a burden as he may have been on set (turning up drunk, overweight, hungover, difficult, etc.), there’s no denying his performance in this is as great as he’s ever given. The monologue where he sits in the shadow and talks to Sheen was completely improvised. Don’t believe me? Look it up. It was one of the conditions he argued with Coppola so long for.
The soundtrack is a perfect example of one that is fully devoted to complementing the mood of a scene. Playing The Doors’ psychedelic masterpiece The End at the beginning and end of the film fits perfectly with the scenes and the tone of the film. Playing The Rolling Stones’ Satisfaction whilst the soldiers on the boat are water-skiing through a mission perfectly resembles the film’s opinion of the soldiers at that time. And The Ride of the Valkyries coupled with a flight of ill-intended helicopters, brilliant.
However, there is one problem I found with the redux, one I understand wasn’t present in the original.
The redux has a supposed 49 minutes of added footage and within that extra time is one scene where all soldiers on the boat stop at a French plantation in the middle of the jungle to converse with the owners about the politics of the war.
The scene doesn’t change anything. There is a sex scene that occurs at the plantation which doesn’t add anything to the story, an argument scene at a dinner table that doesn’t add anything to the story and there is a burial scene that could’ve been implied just as easily and also didn’t add anything to the story.
The whole plantation section of the film is like a gas-stop on a road-trip where you don’t actually get any gas. You just use the facilities and leave.
Other than the plantation scene, Apocalypse Now is perfect. The direction is flawless, the performances are fantastic, the editing is insanely well-executed, the soundtrack perfectly complements the mood of each scene and the script is haunting, thought-provoking and spectacular.
What did you think of Apocalypse Now Redux? Leave your comment on the side and don’t forget to follow my Instagram page for movie posters.