Transplanting the story of Joseph Conrad’s colonial-era novel Heart of Darkness to Vietnam, Francis Ford Coppola created a visually mesmerising fantasia on the spectacle of war.
Shy of controversy, Hollywood steered clear of tackling the war in Vietnam until the conflict was over. In the late 1970s, emboldened by the critical successes of his two Godfather films, Francis Ford Coppola famously spent a vast amount of time and money in the jungles of Southeast Asia to bring to life the story of an American officer (Martin Sheen), sent up river to bring the wayward, megalomaniac Colonel Kurtz (Marlon Brando) to ground.
The troubled production – beset by a typhoon, a heart attack (Sheen’s) and the perils of excess – has entered film-making lore, but the resulting film rivals Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 (1968) for its hallucinatory visuals and grandness of conception. Coppola defined its uniquely unhinged genius best: “My film is not about Vietnam, it is Vietnam.”
“This raw, ragged Vietnam War epic remains Coppola’s most ambitious and original work. It doesn’t have the classical poise of The Godfather (1972) but offers so much more in its impressionistic, wild-ride, river-road-movie journey, a post-60s version of Joseph Conrad’s novella Heart of Darkness (1899). The set pieces, music and performances are exemplary. This is haunting, ravishing cinema on a rare size and scale.” Adrian Wootton
“Apocalypse Now is cinema in its purest form.” Pablo Scholz
“With innovative sound design by the threetime Oscar-winning genius Walter Murch, Apocalypse Now tells the story of a journey into the Cambodian jungle by US Special Forces Captain Willard (Martin Sheen). His mental and physical mission, to “terminate” the dangerously lawless Colonel Kurtz, who has set himself up as the god of a local tribe, soon becomes a process of self-discovery, ending with an outstanding, memorable performance from Marlon Brando.” Nico Marzano
“The insanity of war has seldom been portrayed so vividly.” Christian Monggaard
“This is a film about the hell of war and the lost meaning of glory through that journey into the abyss. It’s about agony, misery and the fall of concepts, principles and ideals. All this is achieved with such visual and poetic power. Each sequence speaks volumes on the human (or rather inhuman) condition, through the main character and all who surround him. These sequences are not necessarily present to develop the story, but to give the audience samples and examples of what it’s all about to be in hell.” Mohammed Rouda
“The greatest war movie ever made, Apocalypse Now will leave you shaking. No other film has explored the human soul quite like this one.” Emily Murray
“Vittorio Storaro's cinematography on Apocalypse Now imbues me with a sense of awe – that image of a fat, bald Brando swallowed up by impermeable darkness as he intones cryptic aphorisms, this jungle sage, this mad god.” Greg Cwik
“Perhaps the most perfect rendition of parallel internal and external journeys that I have ever seen.” Naman Ramachandran
“Coppola is one of the greatest film artists and I could submit a top-five-of-all-time list composed solely of his films.” Yael Shuv