Apocalypse Now Redux (KS, February, 2002)

The re-edit of Coppola’s legendary Vietnam War epic, Apocalypse Now, is nearly an hour longer than the 1979 version based on Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. What some scenes in the redux gain in depth and subtlety, others lose in rawness and gut power.

Captain Willard (Martin Sheen) is sent upriver by the Army to ‘terminate with extreme prejudice’ one Colonel Kurtz, a war hero who has gone mad. The journey to find Kurtz leads willard and his ill-fated crew into a host of absurdities and atrocities, of which they not only experience, but perpetrate. By the time Willard finds Kurtz in a bizarre death-cult village, Willard must probe the depths of his own morality and dark psyche before coming to any decisions about right or wrong. There are no heroes in this movie.

The legendary characters are still here, with many added scenes: Colonel Kilgore (Robert Duvall), strafing an entire village to the tune of Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries in order to go surfing; spaced out journalist Dennis Hopper cluelessly quoting T.S. Eliot, thinking it’s Kurtz; and Marlon Brando, in his last great role, as Kurtz, the soldier who has given up needing reasons to kill (or is it not to kill?) people.

Redux also contains a major sequence, never seen in the original, of a French plantation and colonialists clinging to their dream of Indochina. It’s a lengthy and beautiful set-piece, but it took me 15 minutes to pick up the story after it was over.

I was forever comparing Redux to the original, but to really enjoy this film, stop comparing. It’s somehow a new movie, and ther’s still more to learn from it.


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