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Apocalypse Now

The Horror... The Horror... 

Year: 1979 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 (Scope) 
Certificate: BBFC 15 Cert – Not suitable for under 15s 
Subtitles: This film is expected to have certain elements which are subtitled, but it is not expected that the entire film will contain them. 
Directed by Francis Ford Coppola 
Starring: Martin Sheen, Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall  
An image from Apocalypse Now

US Captain Benjamin Willard (Sheen) has been sent on a mission: get into Cambodia, locate Colonel Kurtz (Brando) and terminate him with 'extreme prejudice'. This doesn't sound too difficult, but it’s 1969 at the heart of the Vietnam War; Kurtz has lost all leave of his senses and has made himself God of a small tribe. This is dangerous, really dangerous.

Having recruited a group of soldiers to take him up the Nung River, Willard encounters many perilous situations on the way to ridding the US army of one of the most respected Green Berets. We follow this motley crew as they endure a horrifying array of episodes associated with warfare's horrors, such as a heart-wrenching massacre on a peasant boat and vicious helicopter assault on a small village. Indeed, Robert Duvall's portrayal as the mad colonel who oversees that attack and cries "I love the smell of napalm in the morning", is one of the most memorable and thought-provoking scenes of the whole film.

Loosely based on Joseph Conrad's novel Heart of Darkness, this film is justly described as one of the most powerful and influential films on the Vietnam War to date. Indeed, Coppola excels himself with his astounding, and, in many ways, completely unique view of the conflict, not really concentrating on the fighting itself but the effects it has on the people involved. Undoubtedly, Apocalypse Now doesn't feel like the normal kind of Vietnam War film, but has such an original air to it, particularly because although the overall focus is on Willard he remains such a mystery.

With an excellent soundtrack ranging from The Doors to Wagner, Coppola has succeeded in every way to make this film one of both compulsive and shocking viewing. This is a particular achievement considering the immense difficulties he endured during this epic's production, including a typhoon that delayed shooting as well as Sheen's severe health problems. For those of you who are fiends for war films this is certainly one you can't afford to miss, for, as Coppola himself says, "This isn't a film about Vietnam. This film is Vietnam."

Laura Sparshot

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Screenings of this film:

2011/2012 Spring Term (digital)
2022/2023 Spring Term (digital)