Francis Ford Coppola’s Vietnam War drama Apocalypse Now brought Vittorio Storaro an Oscar for his vivid colour cinematography. Variety noted his ‘haunting imagery’ and Films Illustrated said ‘Coppola’s command of light, colour and tone is extraordinary. Miraculously, the photography is a continual visual metaphor for the darkness and insanity of his vision.’
Coppola and John Milius collaborated on the adaptation of Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, turning in a unique examination of the horrors of war. In 1968 Martin Sheen is summoned to American army headquarters in Nha Trang and ordered to find and ‘terminate with extreme prejudice’ renegade Colonel Marlon Brando, who has become deranged, deserted, and set himself up as a brutal dictator-cum-god in Cambodia, where he is fighting his own war with a group of tribesmen. Sheen begins his journey travelling up-river in a patrol boat whose crew – Frederic Forrest, Albert Hall, Larry Fishburne and Sam Bottoms – he regards as ‘rock and rollers with one foot in the grave.’
As the journey progresses, it becomes the vision of Conrad’s voyage into darkness. They are attacked by the Viet Cong, Sheen joins a helicopter attack on a Viet Cong stronghold, led by Colonel Robert Duvall in one of the film’s most famous scences, and finally, in an almost surreal sequence, passes the last, besieged American outpost to penetrate into Cambodia and Brando’s compound, where there is grisly evidence of butchery, justified by neurotic photographer Dennis Hopper, who has become a member of Brando’s band of fanatical followers.
In the film’s final sequences, Sheen meets the brooding Brando, who explains how he came to realise the necessity of acting so mercilessly in war and why ‘moral terror’ is necessary for the preservation of civilization. But Sheen is still a man with an order to carry out as well as escaping from the madness that surrounds him. Said Coppola, ‘Apocalypse Now is not a movie. It is not about Vietnam, it is Vietnam. We were in the jungle; there were too many of us; we had access to too much money, too much equipment. And, little by little, we went insane. The film was made the way the war was fought.’
Academy Award Nominations: 8, including Best Picture; Best Director; Best (Adapted) Screenplay.
USA | Paramount | 147 minutes | 1979
Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Script: John Milius, Francis Ford Coppola, from Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad,
Robert Duvall as Lieutenant Colonel Bill Kilgore
Martin Sheen as Captain Benjamin L. Willard
Marlon Brando as Colonel Walter E. Kurtz
Frederic Forrest as Jay ‘Chef’ Hicks
Sam Bottoms as Lance B. Johnson
Laurence Fishburne as Tyrone ‘Clean’ Miller
Albert Hall as Chief Phillips
Harrison Ford as Colonel Lucas
Dennis Hopper as Photojournalist
G. D. Spradlin as General Corman
Jerry Ziesmer as Jerry, Civilian
Scott Glenn as Lieutenant Richard M. Colby
James Keane as Kilgore’s Gunner
Kerry Rossall as Mike from San Diego
Cynthia Wood as Playmate of the Year
Linda Carpenter as Playmate
Jack Thibeau as Soldier in Trench
Tom Mason as Supply Sergeant
Damien Leake as Machine Gunner
Marc Coppola as AFRS Announcer
Glenn Walken as Lieutenant Carlsen
Bill Graham as Agent
Jerry Ross as Johnny from Malibu / Mike from San Diego
Charles Robinson as Soldier with Colby (uncredited)
Nick Nicholson as Soldier (uncredited)
Don Gordon Bell as Soldier (uncredited)
Evan A. Lottman as Soldier (uncredited)
Jim Gaines as Extra (uncredited)
Vittorio Storaro as TV Photographer (uncredited)
Francis Ford Coppola as Director of TV Crew (uncredited)
Henry Strzalkowski as Bit Part (uncredited)
Lonnie Woodley as Helicopter Skid Marine (uncredited)
Aurore Clément as Roxanne Sarrault
G.D. Spradlin as General Corman
Colleen Camp as Miss May
Charlie Sheen as Extra (uncredited)
R. Lee Ermey as Eagle Thrust Seven Helicopter Pilot (uncredited)
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