Review of Apocalypse Now

A while ago, I went with a few friends to watch a movie. Before watching, we were warned that it was a hard hitting movie, and that it was one that we would only want to watch once. I think we underestimated just how hard hitting it really was.

Below is my attempt at providing a sort of review. Unfortunately, it is more like a random collection of thoughts concerning the movie, drawn together and given the title, review.

This is a masterpiece. It is able to attain, unlike so many other movies, that quality of magically whisking the audience away through time and space to the events themselves. Not only does it provide vivid and sometimes horrifying imagery, it also forces the people watching to place themselves, as it were, in the shoes of the characters.

This has to be one of the most confronting movies I have ever watched. Normally, I am quite fine with a bit of violence and gore, as long as it isn’t overdone. However, in this movie, the violence is of quite a different nature. This is a sick and twisted violence, because it never really has an end in mind. This is the violence of young men who have instead become madmen after months of seemingly useless warfare, participating in one of the most pointless wars of attrition in recent years.

It shows how the long cold hands of decadence, laziness and pure madness can clutch at a lonely soldier’s heart. One of the best continuous sequences which takes up a large proportion of the movie, is the long, drawn-out journey in the boat. The monotony of the whole thing, together with random surprise attacks, a few deaths and other incidences all scheme together to bring each man to his breaking point, and beyond. As you watch it, it is very hard not to get pulled along and you might begin to feel, if only half as acutely, some of the toils, the pain and the few small joys which continually plagued each and every man on that treacherous boat.

One of the best and worst things of this movie, is that it shows just how mad a man can become when subjected to those horrible conditions. This is clearly demonstrated in one scene in which a few of the soldiers who are arguably good men, seem to lose all control over their emotions and begin to shoot down civilians without any restraint whatsoever. Whilst this is happening, you are left there, quietly and urgently whispering, stop, stop.

But of course, you know that if you were put in that same position, then you would do exactly the same. And that is part of what makes this movie so terrifying. It represents a sketch of the deepest part of the human psyche and shows more clearly than any other movie I have ever watched, just how much emotional toll a war can have on a man.

If I were to criticise this movie at all, it would be with respect to the historical accuracy it showed in regards to the gratuity of that age and time. In other words, there are a few scenes with partial and more than partial nudity, something that I think could have been forgone in the making of the movie. Apart from that, there is almost no note of hope. No light seems to be at the end of the figurative tunnel. The soldiers who are left at the end of the mission are presumably allowed to return home, if only they have the strength and the courage to do so.

But, from the overall character of the movie, and the opening scenes in which the horrifying mental condition of a ‘used up’ soldier is so vividly portrayed, one knows that even if the soldiers can go home, they will never lead a full and happy life. The memories of what they have gone through will always return to haunt them.

In this respect, the final words of the ‘villain’ are made clear. The horror, the horror.

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