#5. Apocalypse Now

Apocalypse Now is a sprawling Vietnam epic directed by Francis Ford Coppola.  Martin Sheen plays Captain Willard, a shattered Vietnam veteran who chooses to stay in Vietnam and participate in special missions.  As Willard attempts to drink his earthly problems away in Saigon, he is summoned with a top secret mission.

As Willard is presented with his mission (by Harrison Ford and a host of others) he learns that Col. Kurtz (Marlon Brando), a brilliant and decorated American officer has gone rogue and fled into the jungles of Cambodia.  Kurtz has allegedly lost his mind and assembled an army of militants that follow his every word.  As Kurtz taunts the U.S. with his defiant radio transmissions, the military commands Willard to journey through the hostile areas of Vietnam, find Kurtz and dispatch him with “extreme prejudice”.

Kurtz gladly accepts his mission and tags along with a patrol boat to blend in and make his way to Cambodia.  He encounters a reckless commander (Robert Duvall) who is obsessed with surfing and agrees to take Kurtz north based on the promise of good waves.

As Willard lies low on the patrol boat he becomes increasingly fascinated with Kurtz and why the U.S. so badly wants him dead.  As he witnesses the increasingly dark toll of the Vietnam conflict on his surroundings, he remains focused as he has nothing left to live for but his mission.

Eventually Willard arrives in Cambodia and meets a gigantic tribe of militants.  A crazed photojournalist (Dennis Hopper) greets them and welcomes them to the home of Col. Kurtz.  Based on the condition of the tribe, Willard deduces that Kurtz has completely lost his mind and somehow brainwashed the group into carrying out his ill will.  Willard is captured and taken to Kurtz in a spine tingling scene.  As Kurtz delivers a chilling monologue to Willard, the ultimate mind game begins as Willard himself must fight his own sanity in order to kill Kurtz.  I found the last hour of this film quite arresting, and look forward to going back and watching it again.

For a Vietnam epic that runs 2.5 hours,  it is wonderfully paced in action and dialogue.  While stoic and pensive, Sheen is somehow never boring.  Dennis Hopper is also absolutely electrifying in his manic role – and  Marlon Brando’s dillusional monologues are required viewing for any serious film fan.  Highly recommended.

And the survey says…5 stars out of 5!!!

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Categories: 100 Films

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