By: Alli Messick
Francis Coppola’s Apocalypse Now is a war movie that far exceeds any other war film to this point. Despite the terrible conditions and problems during shooting, and the sixty-two extra weeks it took to film it, it still is one of the most moving and emotional movies I have ever seen. War is hell, and Apocalypse Now shows just that.
When making this film, Coppola lost weight he was not trying to lose, almost hurled himself out of windows, and could not keep a sane actor on set. He and Martin Sheen thought they would die from this movie. I think that might be what made it so great. They were showing, not acting, real emotions of anger, fatigue, and pain.
Martin Sheen does an outstanding performance as Captain Willard. With everything that was going on with him, from the alcohol to the heart attack, he managed to totally rock his character and portray the agony in Vietnam. Even though Brando could not care less of his role, he still showed out his incredible ability to act. It is quite impressive that he was able to say whatever he wanted and it be so fitting for the scene. When he is describing the inoculation disaster, the audience can picture it in their minds because of Kirtz’s horror in his voice and the way he speaks.
Robert Duvall once again shows his ability to wow the audience. His character is a rather optimistic soldier that cares for his men. He has a bizarre obsession with the waves, giving the audience something to laugh at while bombs are going off in the background. He was great in The Godfather, but his part in this movie is far above it. The Godfather is a classic with great acting, but it is surpassed by Apocalypse Now in abundance. Coppola outdid himself on both, but his success in Apocalypse Now brings it up just above The Godfather.
Every action film needs some comic relief, and part of the relief in this movie came from the character’s backgrounds. They range from New Orleans to Ohio to California, and it provides interesting dialogue on the boat. Chef would cook for the team and Lance would critique the waves and trip on acid. The mix of personalities and their interactions helped lighten the mood. The fact that Lance saved a puppy from a boat and carried it around with him is the cutest part of the movie. It gives the audience a sense that everything will be OK because there is a dog, and dogs are good. It also comments on the soldiers’ desires to find solace. Lance carries the puppy around with him, perhaps to feel safer or better.
The dark, fiery film that is Apocalypse Now will be viewed as a great movie that moves the audience with its explosions, pain, and fear. However, it could never be what actually happened in Vietnam. The audience may walk away shuddering at what they just saw, but war veterans walk away shuddering at what they just did. This film helps us respect and maybe better understand that “the horror” is real, and that is what makes it great.