The Greatest Films I Have Never Seen: Apocalypse Now

“I love the smell of Napalm in the morning”

  • Title: Apocalypse Now
  • Director: Francis Ford Coppola
  • Release date: 19th May 1979

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Apocalypse Now. The only film that I have reviewed so far that has taken me 2-3 working days to digest.

Hailed as one of the greatest films of all time, I thought it was only fitting to continue this series by reviewing the epic war drama Apocalypse Now.

As the TV screen faded into darkness and the one-line end credit appeared on screen, the first thing that I thought to myself was, “what have I just watched?”. Initially, I was following the storyline quite well. However, once Will arrived at Kurtz’s outpost in Cambodia, I quickly became lost in the complexity of the storyline. What did all this really mean? Well, after a lot of thought I finally came to a conclusion. So, without further ado. Here we go!

Directed by one of Hollywood’s best directors, Apocalypse Now has raised much debate regarding its meaning and interpretation of the Vietnam War. Personally, as a lover of history, I love seeing the ways different media outlets chose to present wartime events, and Apocalypse Now was particularly intriguing. Analysing the film from a one-dimensional perspective, I found it a compelling watch. I certainly have to applaud Coppola’s cinematography as it was simply sublime. You can certainly get a real feel for this in the opening credits of the film. Additionally, Will’s assassination mission, accentuated through the use of the diegetic voiceover, added to the films mystery. However, the complexity surrounding Kurtz’s world did become hard to navigate as the film reached its final stages.

After some thinking time and a rewatch of some significant parts of the movie, I came to the conclusion that Apocalypse Now is a film which personifies the brutality of the Vietnam war through Kurtz’s character. The mass death and destruction, as well as the flippancy of the some of the American soldiers, highlighted in the famous line “I love the smell of Napalm in the morning”, showed the immorality and annihilation of the Vietnam War. Kurtz consumed this during his time in the US army, which caused him to go rogue. His omniscient aura, highlighted through his shaven head and shadow shot scenes, presents him as a knowledgeable man who has been consumed and changed by the atrocities of the war. Kurtz’s transition into insanity demonstrates how the transgressions of humanity can have detrimental effects on the human body and soul.

A lot to digest, I know. But I do believe the best way to enjoy a film such as Apocalypse Now is to explore its literal meaning and its hidden one. The mystery surrounding Will’s assassination mission allows viewers to create their own interpretation of the film’s meaning, leaving you more intrigued than you were when the film first started.


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