No movie has impacted me as profoundly as Apocalypse Now. Featuring stunning cinematography with deep metaphor and a gripping edge-of-your-seat narrative, this Vietnam War film transcends nearly every stereotype of its genre and delivers chilling cinema in truly epic proportions. As Captain Benjamin Willard (Martin Sheen) travels up river to kill rogue Green Beret Colonel Kurtz (Marlon Brando), we witness a hallucinogenic descent into madness that embodies the horrors of war, in my mind one of the most fascinating combinations of visuals and narrative ever brought to the screen.
Director Francis Ford Coppola infamously dealt with hellish production while creating this piece du resistance, including Martin Sheen suffering a near fatal heart attack, constant tropical storms destroying the sets, and having to re-paint their helicopters every day as they were on loan by The Philippines, who used them every night to fight a real insurgency. In the midst of a mental breakdown, Coppola rushed to release this project, which, although universally praised as a masterpiece, never fully satisfied his thematic vision. In 2001, he released the “Redux” edit, which featured nearly all the footage he never edited for the original cut. In my mind, this version was far too long. Thankfully, Coppola has blessed us movie buffs with this “Final Cut” release, featuring what he envisioned as all the thematically relevant content available, plus a 4K remaster for IMAX release.
My God was this a joy to watch. The remaster is incredible. The sound engineering was chilling; as helicopters buzz around in battle, you feel as if you’re right on an airfield with aircraft flying around you (I should know, I work on one). The comprehensive score, including Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries as famously used in the 100% practical-effect beach assault sequence (still the best movie action in history), has been re-recorded with room-shaking acoustics. During the film’s eerie or quiet and pensive scenes, subtle new details have been added, from echoes to crickets, which surprisingly enhance the ambiance. The picture is crisp to where much of the film looked like it could’ve been released yesterday. As corny as it is to say, this truly made for a pure cinematic experience. There wasn’t a single shot that gave me the slightest thought that this was a corporate endeavor, much like many theatrical releases today. Every frame in this movie is the product of care for the movie-making process and a sense of duty to deliver a meaningful story. I’m not kidding when I say I was nearly moved to tears; this is a beautiful film, and I can’t think of any more flowery words to use to illustrate this. Suffice it to say, Apocalypse Now: Final Cut was the best experience I’ve ever had at the movies, and I’m thankful Coppola and others in the industry took the effort to bring this excellent film back to the screen. This film is an extremely limited release, so if you are able to see it in theaters, the opportunity cannot be missed. 10/10