Ever since the beginning of freshman year, I’ve always celebrated the end of the week (Saturday) with a movie. I would finish my homework early in the morning and buy snacks at the grocery store across the street in anticipation of my favorite day of the week. However, sometime last year, the tradition broke under the weight and stress of AP Classes and formal testing. Now that my senior year has begun to die down in terms of workload, I decided to celebrate my returning freedom by resurrecting my favorite thing of all time: Saturday Movies. I decided that since we had started reading Conrad’s Heart of Darkness in class, what better way to begin the routine than with Apocalypse Now.
Francis Coppola’s war masterpiece is arguable one of the most beautiful combat movies that has ever been created. Captain Benjamin Willard (the movie’s Marlow), played by Martin Sheen, is a combatant during the Vietnam War who is chosen to carry out a top secret and extremely risky mission in Cambodia to exterminate Col. Kurtz (the movie’s Kurtz obviously), played by Marlon Brando, an extremely powerful military leader who has apparently gone insane due to excess amounts of power. Kurtz has left the army and has created his own cult of soldiers which has begun to threaten the balance of the war, thus leading to the need of his assassination. Willard is taken up the river with a couple naval offices and along the way, they meet tons of interesting characters, including Kilgore, played by Robert Duvall, a kickass military official missing a few nuts, and some terrifying events.
Truthfully speaking, Apocalypse Now is less like a historical account and more like a psychological study of the human mind. The movie is roughly three hours long but it doesn’t feel excessive in length because it is so perfectly paced and enthralling that when the movie came to a finish, I was astounded by the amount of the time that had had passed. The most beautiful part of this movie for me is definitely the captivating cinematography, a subject in which Coppola truly excels at. For example, in the Godfather trilogy he utilized sepia colors and dark shadows in order to create a noir/baroque atmosphere. In Apocalypse Now, Coppola contrasts bright natural light and dark shadows in order to establish a tone of mysteriousness. For example, in the final scene between Sheen and Brando, the shadows were so apparent in the background that they almost felt alive, dancing across the jungle floor as the two characters conversed. Another beautiful scene is when the helicopters carrying Duvall and the soldiers attack the village while Ride of the Valkyries is playing on the machine. The song could have easily been background music for the scene but instead Coppola actually placed the song in the scene, easily making it even more invigorating and awesome. Duvall even mentions he likes to play it on raids in order to “scare the hell out of them”. Classic Kilgore.
In addition, the actor performances in Apocalypse Now are A+++ material. Brando is a power house and commands every scene he is in, despite the number being few. Sheen is phenomenal, he completely unleashes himself in the movie and the results are unbelievable. Finally, Duvall is a hell of a lot of fun to watch as the crazy Kilgore.This is a film in which there is no hero. In a place where it is impossible to find hope, the surrounding are infested with the human vices of greed and power. Coppola once commented that Apocalypse Now “isn’t about Vietnam. [It is] Vietnam,” and he is absolutely right. If you have not watched this movie yet, then you are truly missing out on the finer things in life. It is the true craftsmanship of one of the greatest filmmakers of all time.