Apocalypse Now Redux

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 08 November, 2001, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 08 November, 2001, 12:00am

Starring: Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall, Martin Sheen

Director: Francis Ford Coppola

Category: III

Initially, the most stunning thing about Apocalypse Now Redux is how 'real' the whole thing seems. The explosions, the battles and the burning jungle simply blow you away. Then it hits you: this is a film made before computers took over special effects. It comes from an age long gone, when inventiveness, rather than fancy computer trickery, had us glued to our seats. And that alone makes this foray into the past worth the ticket price.

But there is so much more to revel in. For those who have never seen Apocalypse Now on the big screen, this is a must-see. And for that version's devotees, the much-anticipated added footage drives viewing time up to 203 minutes. So get comfortable: you're in for a long - and wild - ride.

There is a multitude of stories surrounding director Francis Ford Coppola's Vietnam war version of the Joseph Conrad novel, Heart Of Darkness. It went massively over-budget, pushed Martin Sheen to a heart attack, and drove almost everyone else involved crazy. But it remains Coppola's most stunning work.

Basically, we follow Captain Willard (Sheen) from Saigon up a river into the madness of war as he goes on his search-and-destroy mission for the renegade Colonel Kurtz (Marlon Brando). Willard is joined on the journey by an increasingly reluctant ship's crew (which includes the teenaged Laurence Fishburne) and they encounter a progressively more insane series of characters and situations.

Of these, the arrival of Lieutenant-Colonel Kilgore (Robert Duvall) looms largest - and it is the added footage in these scenes that prove most enjoyable. We see a welcome lighter side of Willard, and the film itself. The two longest added scenes - the almost mythical French plantation scene and when the crew is reunited with the Playboy bunnies - are interesting simply because you'll be seeing them for the first time. But, ultimately, they are of no real consequence. What they do is make the film more of a journey than a series of pit stops, thereby rounding out Coppola's greater vision.

Throughout we are reminded that this is a film-maker and an ensemble of actors (Sheen and Duvall in particular) at their peak. There are patchy parts along the way and the film never really matches the intensity of the early scenes with Duvall, but these are small matters. It's a flawed masterpiece - but a masterpiece just the same.

Apocalypse Now Redux is screening at JP Cinema, Ocean, UA Pacific Place, Cityplaza Cinema and AMC Festival Walk.