The Reel Review


An American soldier is sent from Vietnam into Cambodia to assassinate a rogue Army colonel whom has lost his mind and become a bloodthirsty cult leader. Martin Sheen, Marlon Brando and Robert Duvall star in this classic 1979 war epic inspired by Joseph Conrad’s 1899 novella, “Heart of Darkness.”

Robert Duvall in Apocalypse Now

Apocalypse Now features chaos, stunning surreal visuals and a stirring score that includes an equally surreal juxtaposition of the classical works of Wagner and The Doors. The result is a fever dream about humanity’s descent into madness. Sheen’s Captain Benjamin Willard also serves as the narrator of the war epic, describing the spiraling insanity around him, with an ensemble supporting cast that includes Laurence Fishburne (who was only 14 when production began), Sam Bottoms, Albert Hall and Frederic Forest as members of Willard’s military boat crew, themselves engaging in increasingly insane horrors as they delve deeper into the harsh, unforgiving jungle.

Martin Sheen in Apocalypse Now

The film’s big climax occurs when Captain Willard finally locates Colonel Kurtz (Marlon Brando) and his tribesmen followers deep in the jungles of Cambodia, surrounded by the bodies of their enemies. It is a horrific and haunting scene, illustrating how war exposes truths about the darker aspects of humanity that we would rather not discover. Apocalypse Now is easily one of the best war dramas ever made.


From Apocalypse Now

• Initially planned as a six-week shoot, Apocalypse Now took a whopping 16 months to complete. Because at the time there were no film processing labs in the Philippines where the film was shot, director Francis Ford Coppola couldn’t see the end results until he was back in California.

• Martin Sheen suffered a heart attack during filming, resulting in Coppola flying out his brother Joe Estevez, who looks and sounds like Sheen, to act as a stand-in while Sheen recovered, and years later, providing narration when Sheen was unable.

• Marlon Brando showed up late, 88 lbs overweight, drunk and unprepared, prompting an angry Coppola to minimize his role to just 11 minutes, shooting only his face during closeups, which Brando mostly ad-libbed, since he hadn’t read the script.


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