Apocalypse Now

January 28, 2012 7 Min Read

Review by: Christopher Bligh

Plot: What’s it about?

In the mid-1970’s director Francis Ford Coppola had the honor of having all three films he made in this decade nominated and/or winning the Best Picture prize. His next project however took him into a darker territory more so than he had ever imagined. When shooting started, he replaced his lead who not too long after that suffered a heart attack. The production went on forever and the budget started to escalate to astronomical proportions. It was the living definition of Murphy’s law. Despite all the craziness, the length plus the many acts of God, he turned in a mystifying tale of a mission amongst the Vietnam war based on the Joseph Conrad novel Hearts of Darkness. It goes into a little place where the aftermath is later and the time of the Vietnam war was the time of Apocalypse Now.

Cpt. Willard (Martin Sheen) is weary, restless and out of shape. He’s on a long leave waiting for a mission in some beat up hotel room. One day, officers knock on his door with just that. His mission, should he choose to accept it, is to seek out Colonel Kurtz (Marlon Brando) a highly decorated officer believed to have gone off the sanity chart killing a few of his own kind as well as dodging a court martial. Willard must find him with any means necessary no matter what the danger and terminate the colonel’s command (with extreme prejudice). Along his trip he takes part and notices a lot of dangerous action, some dolls in the middle of it all, and a struggle along the muddy waters of Vietnam.

It seems no matter how many time this viewer comes back to this film, it becomes more fascinating with each viewing. It’s amazes me just how the struggle was to get this film made, let alone the final result as well as the added result a few years ago with the Redux. Francis Ford Coppola brings to the table a sense of disallusionment and a bit of mystery in this odd, complicated tale well put together by his struggling capable hands.

All of the cast put in solid work and the settings and the action is so mystifying you don’t know where the enemy stands or if the crew along Willard’s mission is the enemy themselves and unsure whether they’ll all make it out alive. Also worth noting is the narration that drives the film along as well as the sixties music and the pseudo-electric score by Carmine Coppola. It moves at a great steady pace without going too slow or too fast. It was lucky enough to land Coppola his fourth Best Picture nomination, and even though he didn’t win he left a mark on a decade batting a thousand for all his movies that hasn’t been matched by any other director before or since.

Video: How does it look?

Every viewer has been under the impression that Apocalypse Now was filmed in the 2.35:1 aspect ratio. However when it has come to putting the film wide in any form in any other medium other than film, it takes the 70MM print approach at the 2.00:1 ratio. That doesn’t take away from the end result of the transfer. The print is in great shape although some scenes get slightly speckly at times, it remains a clean print free of much grain and full of much clarity. The look surpasses all other transfers in the past medium to make a great transfer.

Audio: How does it sound?

The Dolby Digital 5.1 track keeps in it’s Oscar-winning glory well deserving it’s win and getting the justice it deserves on DVD. The Ride of the Valkyries never sounded so glorious and the helicopters never sounded so sharply in the surround channels that this viewer almost had to hit the deck himself when they were approaching. From the surprise attacks that spread in volume, to the shock and surprise of a tiger in the woods, along with the musical score/tunes the track remains constantly a wonder for the ears and a great demo for any home theater system. A great track. This disc also has a French 2.0 track as well as English subtitles.

Supplements: What are the extras?

This wouldn’t be a solid disc without the right amount of extras and it comes up satisfying despite the lack of a feature length commentary by Coppola and Co.

The first ironically is the alternate ending called “The Destruction of the Kurtz Compound” with commentary by Coppola. The brief informative words makes one wish for that feature to be on the entire DVD as well as the documentary “Hearts of Darkness”. Nevertheless, it’s a very good extra and a worthy addition.

Next is a production log, along with the end credits (which are also included on the feature, not on the original print) that were formed in a program at the time of the films release

Finally, there is the film’s theatrical trailer with no studio logo and it is a good one that I remember from the old pay-tv movie channel.

Overall, a solid addition to any DVD collection and ,along with Redux, two great movies. Now if only we can get the Hearts of Darkness documentary included in the future, all will be well.

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