Apocalypse Now Review

By: Gabrielle Napier

            Hunkered down in a rut in the sand, bombs begin exploding in the trees behind the American soldiers as Lieutenant Colonel Bill Kilgore, played by Robert Duvall, exclaims “I love the smell of napalm in the morning. It smells like victory.” The sky full of American helicopters and Vietnamese citizens running for their lives, Francis Ford Coppola’s newest film, Apocalypse Now gives Americans a look into the dark world that was the Vietnam War.

Sent on a classified mission into Uganda, Captain Benjamin Willard, played by Martin Sheen, experiences countless officers and soldiers easily labeled as lunatics. Based off of Joseph Conrad’s book Heart of Darkness, Coppola’s new movie takes the audience on a journey through the treacherous terrain and fighting that occurred while on Willard’s journey up the Congo River. This film is either adored by its fans or loathed by its critics, but there is no in between. Between the camera angles, the intense fighting scenes, and every gory detail, Apocalypse Now is not an easily forgettable piece.

Traveling upriver into Cambodia via Army patrol boat, Willard gets to know his crew through the scenarios they face together, learning lessons along the way. Jay ‘Chef’ Hicks, played by Frederic Forrest, decides he wants to venture outside of the boat to find mangos, so Willard and Chef search for the fruit until the silence and stillness becomes suspicious to Willard. Silence is broken when a giant tiger jumps out of the brush and the two men run screaming all the way back to the boat, learning that unless at their final destination or at a known army base, never get out of the boat. The rest of Willard’s crew included a professional surfer named Lance Johnson, played by Sam Bottoms, the boat’s captain named Chief Phillips, played by Albert Hall, and Tyrone ‘Clean’ Miller, played by Laurence Fishburne. This phenomenal cast takes its audience on an epic adventured into Cambodia to capture a rogue army colonel named Colonel Walter Kurtz, played by Marlin Brando, who has made himself the god of a tribe deep within the foreign country.

Using authentic explosives, Coppola goes all out to depict bombings in the film. Using a real bull for sacrifice during a tribal ritual, Apocalypse Now works to give the audience the full experience, inducing emotions as some of the boat crewmembers meet their demise via bullets, arrows, and even decapitation. All along the way, Willard is troubled by the army’s demand for the execution Kurtz, as he is a decorated American war hero. The more hardship the crew faces, the more Willard seems to understand why and how Kurtz went insane. Upon his arrival to Kurtz’s “kingdom,” Willard is intrigued by the tribe’s adoration for the colonel, considering the bodies and heads strewn about the floor of the jungle. The adoration is more likely fear than love. The possibly ‘brainwashed’ tribe worships Kurtz to avoid his temper and rage that could result in their death. The interactions between Kurtz and his people leaves the audience curious as to whether they worship him out of love for their provider or fear for their lives. Coppola’s well-executed film compares to no other war movie and is an enthralling story meant to be shared.