Francis Ford Coppola disappeared into the jungle for a few years, lost his mind and emerged with this surrealist masterpiece, a film that might even be the superior of his much-celebrated Godfather films (the first two, anyway, but we probably didn’t need to make that distinction). Apocalypse Now takes Joseph Conrad’s novella, Heart of Darkness, and turns it into not so much a “Vietnam movie” but a harrowing portrait of madness — rarely has a film felt so unrelentingly nightmarish and foreboding, and from the very first frame, at that. Captain Willard (Martin Sheen, who had a damn heart attack while making this thing) travels down the river on a mission to kill the rogue Colonel Kurtz (Marlon Brando), a journey that reveals a physical and moral wasteland that becomes more and more unraveled the closer the boat gets to its final destination — a secluded village where Kurtz is worshipped as a mad god. Somewhat unfortunately, this was probably Coppola’s last truly great film as a director‚ but most directors never even make one movie as brilliant as this one. This Redux version, released in 2001, restores 49 minutes worth of footage that was deleted from the original 1979 theatrical cut; the new scenes are curiosity pieces at best and don’t serve to make the film either better or worse — just longer.
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