Apocalypse Now (1979)
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Directed by: Francis Ford Coppola
Starring: Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall, Martin Sheen
Apocalypse Now ranked # 28 on the American Film Institute's Top 100 American Films list.
Apocalypse Now is a 1979 American film directed by Francis Ford Coppola from a script by John Milius (rewritten by Coppola) which was inspired by Joseph Conrad's classic novella Heart of Darkness.
Set during the Vietnam War, the film tells the story of a taciturn American soldier who is sent to "terminate with extreme prejudice" the command of a rogue United States Army Special Forces colonel. The narrative of his journey and its culmination are studded with events which, while bizarre, are based on real Vietnam stories. The soldier's journey becomes increasingly nonlinear and hallucinatory. Coppola's agenda clearly involves larger themes; the
film's subtext concerns a journey into the darkness of the human psyche.
The film features performances by Martin Sheen as Captain Benjamin L. Willard (Marlow in Conrad's novel), Marlon Brando as Colonel Walter E. Kurtz, Dennis Hopper as a fast-talking hallucinogen-using photojournalist, and Robert Duvall in an Oscar-nominated turn as the borderline-psychotic Lt. Colonel Kilgore.
Several other actors who were (or later became) prominent stars had minor or
supporting roles in the movie including Harrison Ford, R. Lee Ermey and Laurence Fishburne (who, only fourteen years old when shooting began in March 1976, was credited as 'Larry Fishburne').
Filmed in the Philippines, the film went far over budget and schedule: a
typhoon destroyed many of the sets, the Philippine Air Force helicopters used for shooting were constantly called back by President Ferdinand Marcos to be used in actual combat, the lead role was recast (Martin Sheen replaced Harvey Keitel after shooting had begun), Sheen then had a near-fatal heart attack, Brando was intractable and out of shape, and Coppola himself was mentally fragile. Being similar in appearance and remarkably similar in voice, Martin Sheen's brother Joe Estevez stood in for the unwell Sheen in much of the
film and some of the narration is by him.
After the first edit, the film was six hours long and had to be severely edited; the original released version was just over two and a half hours long. (Coppola re-released the film in 2001 under the title Apocalypse Now Redux, restoring footage and sequences and lifting the running time to 200 minutes.)
It is widely believed that Apocalypse did not win the Best Picture Oscar in 1979 due to the fact that another Vietname epic, "The Deer Hunter," had just won the previous year.
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