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Apocalypse Now Redux

THE Godfather trilogy is often cited as director Francis Ford Coppola's finest hour.

Apocalypse Now Redux

THE Godfather trilogy is often cited as director Francis Ford Coppola's finest hour. But when it comes to sheer brilliance in imagery and words then you should look no further than the flawed, sprawling masterpiece that is Apocalypse Now.

Over two decades after knocking cinema audiences for six, Coppola has returned to finish what he started by giving us Apocalypse Now Redux, a definitive director's cut of what is, arguably, one of the greatest cinematic experiences of all time.

The stories about filming Apocalypse Now are almost as famous as the film itself.

Twenty-two years ago a much younger, naïve Coppola and his crew ventured into the Philippine jungle to make a war epic.

The story would be adapted from Joseph Conrad's 'Heart of Darkness' substituting the particularly American trauma of Vietnam for Conrad's dark British Cultural Imperialism.

But Coppola didn't know what he had let himself in for.

By the time the film had eventually wrapped, lead actor Harvey Keitel had been replaced by Martin Sheen, principal photography had over-run by almost six months, the budget had sky-rocketed by $16m causing Coppola to risk bankruptcy. Almost everyone on set was stoned and began to go insane. Sheen had a heart attack and Coppola had a nervous breakdown.

If that wasn't enough, Coppola panicked. Terrified that "the film was too long, too strange and didn't resolve itself in a kind of classic big battle" he tried to shape it to suit the mainstream audience of the day.

Yet if filming was a journey into hell, what resulted was sublime. Despite being a little overwhelming and pretentious, Apocalypse Now is without doubt one of the most amazing pieces of film ever made.

It captures the absolute surreal horror of the Vietnam war as well as the ugly truth of the cultural lies told to cover that horror, and the side of human nature that revels in such darkness.

Feeling that audiences could now appreciate his original vision, Coppola and editor Richard Marks crafted what he describes as "a richer, fuller and more textured film experience".

The film has been completely re-edited, and 49 minutes of extra footage has been added.

The main story is the same. Captain Willard (Sheen) is a soldier and black ops assassin on the verge of burning out after realising that after his experiences in Vietnam he has changed so much he cannot go home to America again.

For his sins, his superiors send him on a secret mission behind enemy lines into Cambodia to "terminate with extreme prejudice" a rogue Green Beret Colonel called Kurtz (Brando).

Kurtz, a highly intelligent and decorated officer has seemingly gone insane and set himself up as a God in the middle of the Cambodian jungle with an army of native followers.

Willard sets off on an epic odyssey up river and into the dark primordial human psyche on a Navy boat with a diverse crew: the tightly wound Chef (Frederic Forrest), studious Chief (Albert Hall), stoned California surfer, Lance (Sam Bottoms) and trigger-happy teenager, Clean (a 14-year-old Lawrence Fishburne).

On their journey they run into a host of strange and frightening situations and characters. Most notably the rampantly insane Lt. Colonel Kilgore (Robert Duvall), who bombards his enemies with Wagner and decimates an entire village so he can surf the beach there.

The film consists of a series of set pieces which take Willard and co. on an insane trip where awful acts of madness and barbarity become everyday occurrences.

The new scenes in the Redux emphasise this. The longest new segment concerns the strange, ghostlike inhabitants of a French plantation.

Determined to cling onto their land and heritage they are almost stuck in a Colonial timewarp. This ends in a bizarre Mad-Hatter-like dinner party which serves to estrange Willard form the 'real' world even more.

Other new sequences include another meeting with the Playboy bunnies. A disturbingly poignant encounter as they are forced to use their obvious assets in return for fuel to escape. A de-humanising experience for everyone involved.

The camaraderie on the boat and Brando's political editorialising have also been extended.

Like Dante in the Inferno, Willard eventually reaches journey's end where he finds Kurtz set up like some sort of terrible ancient Aztec blood God and his horror really begins...

Acting performances and script are excellent, the new scenes do not make the Redux a better film than the original cut, but they do add to it allowing the audience time to catch their breath.

The film itself looks and sounds fabulous. A new Technicolor dye-transfer process ensures lush, vivid colours that do justice to Vittorio Storaro's stunning cinematography.

Walter Murch's evocative soundtrack has also been digitally re-mastered along with the musical score.

Apocalypse Now was always a long haul and this new version takes running time to over three hours. But for those willing to take the trip and stay the course, get ready to experience a powerful sensory overload. Unmissable.


David Holmes
Chief News Reporter
David Norbury
Mike Fuller
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