Apocalypse Now Redux (1979/2000) Review

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An extended version of Francis Ford Coppola's 1979 classic, with nearly an hour of 'new' footage filling out the story of Captain Willard and his crew as they voyage towards the compound of Colonel Kurtz.


For any film fan, it's only natural to want favourite films to be longer, and now they can be. For in Redux, Francis Ford Coppola has gone back to the raw material, not simply cutting in deleted scenes but reassembling the whole film on an even more epic scale.

The first thing: Apocalypse Now is as good as ever. Generations who have seen it only on video will learn just how astonishing the film can be on the biggest possible screen, with the best possible sound system. Cinematographer Vittorio Storaro and sound designer Walter Murch, deployed by mad general Coppola, create effects that work only in a theatre and which will stay with you forever, from the haunted hotel room where Martin Sheen is found having a breakdown, through Colonel Kilgore's helicopter attack on the surf-friendly riverhead occupied by the VC, to the atrocity-filled encampment where Dennis Hopper scuttles as acolyte to an ambiguous monster whose name comes half from (Walter Elias) Disney and half from Conrad's Mr. Kurtz.

But what about the new stuff? It's all good, but there are niggles - when Willard and his men rag Kilgore by stealing his surfboard, it deepens their characters and makes some nice relief, but the extra footage blunts Duvall's great exit line ("Some day this war's gonna end"). The Playboy bunny scene has moments but feels unfinished, and a crucial moment with Laurence Fishburne is still MIA. The long French plantation sequence has weird echoes of Sid James and co. taking tea during battle in Carry On Up The Khyber, but the first ghostly appearance of the colonials in the mist is magical. A bit with Brando reading articles aloud makes this a more specific film about this particular war, but is literal editorialising.

Now, it's a slower film, with a little more intellect and sentiment, but perhaps the added time to think will make you feel less overwhelmed.

Unmissable in any version, especially if you're an Apocalypse-in-the-cinema virgin, it'll take a few more viewings to decide which is the definitive version.