Apocalypse Now Redux

Movie Poster

I've come a long ways from that young man watching a VHS tape at home with the adults. Some kind of war movie, they said. Lots of action and cursing, which was cool to a kid. But, largely, tons of dialogue. That young man didn't get it... It's definitely been a long ways. This time around Coppola's film reached into me and told me many lasting things far beyond the amazing explosions and relentless expenditure of ammunition. Even the title itself. Brilliant. It's not so much the war. It's life. It's now. The time comes for everyone. Never at the same time or under the same circumstances. But it does arrive. Loss is unavoidable. Whether it's our sanity. Our dreams. Our hopes. The very identity of who we once were. Definitely friends and family. Those usually go or rearrange themselves into a new unexpected landscape. Loss. One way or another. Whether we admit it or choose to live in denial. Loss is there to stay. Milius and Coppola made it clear. Their message of loss and madness stays with you in a haunting way. You just can't wash it off. "The horrors," Brando insists. The things we see. We experience. We find ourselves doing. Who are these new men we've become along the way. Where is that guy I left behind when I started? Is there ever a true way back? And if so, to where? There is no doubt the content of the film carries a truly emotional and psychological impact. Yes. The context is war. The most extreme of violent acts. A perfect metaphor for the loss of innocence and the discovery of life's real intent. It turns out life doesn't always have your back. No matter how good you are. No matter how good a side you fight for. Sometimes life just doesn't have your back. All characters are great studies of humanity's journey. But some of the more obvious ones can't be avoided. Like those Playboy models. So glossy and hopeful in their early arrival. Fireworks was the theme. The object of everyone's dreams. Dreams finally buried in mud and despair inside that rain soaked tent. Innocent beauties confessing their sacrifices while handing over their honor as if it was a buffet. Tall price to pay for one's dreams. "They made me do all kinds of horrible things," she says. "I just want a simple boy to like me... Are you a simple boy?" And then the next guy interrupts, "I'm next madam." The things we sold along the way. And to make the irony colder let's not forget that those girls traveled to the front lines to 'help' the soldiers. They just didn't know how deep a sale this was going to be. Remember the French? Holding on to their family land next to the river? There for generations? But they do say they came from France, brought the supplies from Brazil, and taught the locals to work with them. To save them, as they say. Was this education in exchange for slavery? I didn't see any Vietnamese workers at that lavish dinner table. Are the once ignorant locals glad to be enslaved? Whose land is it then? Perhaps the French will die in this land after all. Perhaps someone will educate them on a new form of slavery. The slavery to your land that was never yours. The final discovery of Marlon Brando was epic. You can feel that man's energy jumping out of the screen. Each and every one of his words perfectly calculated. Telling us of the propaganda of war. The perpetuity and necessity of the lies. The machine that moves all of us. Influences us. Tricks us to participate willingly. Is this war just a backdrop for life's journey. Who do we lie to? Others? Ourselves? One day this war will end. And then what? There is always room for fresh new lies to believe. Martin Sheen was amazingly handsome in this movie. Great shape. A man's man. I always forget Martin was once a great good looking stud. He seems to have aged fast into his more mature roles of late. Regardless, the acting was on point at all times. As if made of steel. Where do you take your acting career from that? Perhaps that's why his role seemed to mature so quickly after Apocalypse. Marlon Brando can't truly be congratulated in words. The man's talents are pure art in motion. You simply surrender to the beast and let him take you whole. He's barely in the movie, yet there were times when I though he was going to reach out of the screen and grab me. Amazing. The rest of the cast was rounded to perfection. Who could forget Robert Duvall? Genius! The part reads as if written expressly for him. I would have given him back the surf board. Don't wanna mess with that guy. The film made me a bit nostalgic of older movies. We have to keep in mind this production took place before digital imagery was the soup of the day at fifty cents a pop. Those explosions are real. The groups of helicopters are real. The airplanes doing fly overs and blowing up crap, well, they are real. That's film making with balls. Coppola had the privilege of directing the real thing. No green screen in sight. It must have been an amazing experience. Although, if we put the time of production in perspective, that is, the seventies, Francis was probably doing business as it should be done. "OK. We need a dozen helicopters over there!" Awesome. What balls. About eighteen years ago, I can't believe it's been that long, I had the opportunity of meeting John Milius on the Warner lot in regards to a project. We had a great conversation about very many things. Seemed like we talked for hours. And just before leaving his office I spotted a copy of the script of Apocalypse Now sitting casually on his self. "It's the last one we printed back then. It's been sitting there collecting dust forever." "It's funny how so many great things have such a casual ending. It's like right there. Forgotten," I told John. "You want it?" "Of course I do! But if I take it you must sign it with a line that represents the spirit of what you wrote as you look back now." He smiled at me, grabbed a pen, and signed: "To Santiago. Never Surrender."