Apocalypse Now Film Review

By: Chloe Massoni

Apocalypse Now is an epic story of the effects that war has on a man, and it is told in a realistic manner never before tested. Future war films would not stand a chance in mimicking the level of underlying sentiment created in this movie. Francis Coppola directs an incredibly compelling film that feels raw and realistic. The emotions feel authentic, and you will find yourself drawn to the characters, writhing in their pain along with them.

Martin Sheen is truly brilliant in his lead role as Captain Benjamin L. Willard, an army man struck by the incredible life changes that being deployed to Vietnam causes. Captain Willard journeys to terminate the decorated Colonel Walter E. Kurtz (Marlon Brando), after the man goes rogue in Cambodia, adopting a tribe as his worshippers, behaving in ways that the United States military could not excuse. Willard’s journey to complete this mission (that feels heinous because of the insight that Willard gives the audience into the psyche of a man having been thrown into such hardship as the Vietnam War) is touching and tragic, and truly a roller-coaster of emotions.

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Willard’s team is inviting and engaging. Coppola could not have assembled a more endearing group of actors to play these heart-wrenching characters, and the actors could not have been more successful in creating characters that the audience cannot help but to empathize with. I was tormented watching as the team is killed off, especially during scenes such as the one in which Clean (Lawrence Fishburne) is killed. Coppola’s intentional choices in the deaths of the characters are fitting, as all of the director’s choices in this film are meant to draw the audience in and leave them feeling the tragedy. My heart wrenched watching the life flee Clean as his mother’s tape played, talking of his coming home.  The inclusion of the mother’s tape was outstandingly successful in evoking an emotional connection and a sorrow, both for the dead soldier, and for his family who would soon learn that they had been stripped of a son.

Coppola does an outstanding job of making the audience feel what the characters are feeling as they venture through a bloody, murderous land that one soldier refers to as, “the asshole of the world.” He gives the audience some insight into the excruciating emotional turmoil that the young soldiers of the Vietnam War undergo, noting, “When [they’re] in the jungle, [they] cannot stop thinking about being home, and when [they] are home, [they] are wishing to be back in the jungle.” These poor young men have such torturous, life-changing experiences while overseas that they are almost incapable of readjusting to normal civilian life, without the life-saving and life-taking guns, and the thick coating of blood, and the agonizing but inevitable loss.

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Willard suffers from great internal strife over his assignment to terminate Kurtz because though the Colonel goes crooked, his decorated history speaks volumes; that a man who has gone insane because of the great sacrifices they have made for their country must be killed seems cruel and unfair, but nonetheless a necessary evil. The Captain struggles with this mission from the moment he receives his instructions to the bitter end after completing his task, furthering the audience’s sympathy with the soldiers of the war and solidifying the feeling of insight that Coppola intends to provide.

This film is a must-see for all ages above thirteen, and will reach the young audiences more than any film they’ve ever seen. I am confident that this film will prove timeless and will help define our generation for years to come.

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