Pete’s small disappointment in 2001, to the week

Apocalypse Now Redux was released August 3, 2001—twenty years ago this week. I found Apocalypse Now Redux disappointing. This was the version that was supposed to improve on the original Apocalypse Now with added scenes.

In this review I focus on that redux version from 2001 that I watched in a fully packed theatre. I thought that adding 53 minutes of footage to the original 1979 version would have added something more, but it was still a lengthy, arduous plod (for the audience and presumably the actors and crew) wading through these scenes as I sat waiting for more in the theatre.

Watching Apocalypse Now Redux then, I was bored by the added scenes which seemed to never get to the point.

However, I considered Apocalypse Now powerful cinema and artistically outstanding in its original state, but viewers should be warned of occasionally shocking war violence and profanity and there is more than a brief and surprising scene of nudity. And the redux version lacked the cylinder power to overcome its feeling of weakness.

The story goes that during the Vietnam War, Captain Willard (Martin Sheen) is accompanied by U.S. soldiers to eliminate with “extreme prejudice” the insane Colonel Kurtz (Marlon Brando) who has formed a cult at the mouth of a river.

While Willard’s mission is not to eliminate a sadistic leader who controls people, Willard must eliminate Kurtz because he is only bad publicity for America in the Vietnam War effort. According to the military brass, that to pretend to have a colonel killed in battle – however fabricated – is a better story than an alive Colonel considered insane by a conflict the American’s entered.

Whatever one’s capacity for belief in or non-acceptance of the Vietnam War, this was not the issue for me. Rather Captain Willard and Colonel Kurtz’s encounter at the mouth of the river is a powerful indictment of the sin or darkness of humanity that evokes an emotional response. Willard’s and Kurtz’s meeting may be considered pretentious by some, but as Willard eliminates Kurtz, he has become like the man he is assassinating, someone who has lost his soul, while the authorities turn a blind eye.

The Final Cut version, released in 2019, seems to do this better.

The surreal look of the film highlights the disorientating feel of a humanity gone astray, although I am not keen on the additional elements in 2001’s redux version of the film of 1979.

Released August 3, 2001, LA/NY, August 10 & 17, Limited

Starring: Marlon Brando
Actors: Martin Sheen Robert Duvall Frederic Forrest 
Director: Francis Ford Coppola 
Writers: John Milius & Francis Ford Coppola
Rated: R (MPAA) (disturbing violent images, language, sexual content and some drug use)
Run Length: 202 min

This review is by Peter Veugelaers, reformatted and edited, 2021. First version published 2001,

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