Apocalypse Now

30th anniversary showing
Directed by Francis Ford Coppola
FACT, Wood St.

Reviewed by John Owen 4/7/2011

One of the great antiwar movies of the 70s or my generation at least that left a trail of debris among its key players and actors bringing together old chums from the godfather Duvall and Brando Coppola put on screen a testament to us power military hardware and the combined effects of them on the person of both Colonel Kurtz (Brando) and Captain Willard (Sheen) both retracing the heart of darkness Josephs Conrad study of colonialism in the early 20th century scramble for Africa.

But to describe it as war film or anti war film is incorrect it would be too simple, an action movie maybe yes, the pace however is a slow build up of the journey of one mans destiny and another's fate as they both intertwine and connect. “Snaking like a mains circuit cable plugged into the heart of Kurtz.”

Both men closely paralleling the US policy of colonialism around the world as Vietnam the defeat that scarred a generation of American confidences in the capitalist system and way of life.

As Willard reports on seeing playgirls dancing for see starved us marine corps grunts fighting each other to touch or get near the flesh of these desirables he reflects sagely “victory or death” is their way Vietcong attitudes their idea of a little Rn R was “cold rice and some rat meat”, admiring his enemies grit and determination he begins to appreciate kurtz and his “unsound methods.”

This symmetry of the opposites is sublimely recorded as the ambitious young disaffected officer is drawn almost hero worship style to his assassins assignment or the “termination with extreme prejudice” job. Covert operations never sounded so cool or sexy alas to think of this as James bond stuff would be silly, the grim brutal nature of the men on their respective missions leaves no stone unturned, plenty of dehumanizing killing in cold blood to sounds of Doors the ultimate apocalypse soundtrack as you enter hell. This is the descent into dantes inferno writ large, a personal odyssey of all perhaps involved in the madness of any war.

Apocalypse now! This is in fact daubed on the wall as they arrive at Kurtzs enclave along with countless decapitations and a stone free Dennis hopper playing the time life photographer gone native and idol worshiping reminiscent of Charles Manson and his followers. US fighting proxy wars against so called evil totalitarian regimes and anti communist crusades (sound familiar ) in the process becoming those monsters themselves they're trying to replace at least the generals.

General Kilgore played superbly by Robert Duvall famously utters the great lines “Charlie don't surf”, and “Napalm I love the smell of fresh napalm in the morning it smells of...victory” or “one day this war is gonna be over son” he epitomizes the random brutality and absurdity as he takes on the mission to help capt n Willard find Kurtz , because he has the surfer Lance Armstrong in his crew.

The layer of disaffected young people at odds with there elders that led to Woodstock the anti war movement the revolutionary times as the body-bags from this far away war came to life on the tv screens every night as they were to sent to be slaughtered like their parents had duly done in the patriotically indoctrinated line of duty. Kill our enemy Nazis not this time but peasant farmers that refused to give in. the American way never sounded so persuasive.

When you consider the average age of the us marine soldiers was 19, but many even younger,you feel for the character of Clean, a 17 yr old young Lawrence Fishburne (Neo of Matrix fame) killed as they play his mothers tape warning him to “watch his heiny”.

This observation of Willard pertinent to the point “some of these kids are half baked one foot in the grave rock n rollers” while youthful clean who “busts his balls” hails “from some south Bronx shit hole were the light and space of Vietnam as put the zap on his head.

The scene of helicopters attacking the village with ride of the Valkyries coming over the tannoy is disturbing yet also balletic, like Stanley Kubricks droog fight scenes in “Clockwork Orange”, all choreographed to classical music. This psyop tactic powerfully reinforces the fear and dread of the operation, collateral bombing supplemented by strafing with napalm, 3 million tonnes of which was dropped on Vietnam.

So its significance to today why watch it with Britain jumping at the leash to savage some regime not practicing capitalist democracy or as they put it regime change in the world of embedded photographers and journalists these bing the trigger words replacing cold war fear of communist godless atheist takeover led via Stalin entrenched in the Kremlin hellbent on creating a totalitarian Orwellian planet or so they'd have you believe imposing their wills and ways on freedom loving US citizens. Todays audience may not be so naïve to believe the jargon are not so awestruck and believe in this method that is if they have one it seems more a war for oil or resources in the more consumptive societies of the west.

Anywhere not sporting McDonalds fast food chains and other attributes of western democracy like muggings violent crime rape etc previously out of their sphere of influence is now up for a forced change note Libya as the new bogeyman this is what democracy looks like. The horror! the horror!

Printer friendly page

Sorry Comments Closed

Comment left by daz on 11th July, 2011 at 18:29
Great review of one of my favourite madness of war films. No clean cut good and bad guys this one.