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Apocalypse Now: Redux ***
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Starring Martin Sheen, Laurence Fishburne, Marlon Brando
Directed by Francis Ford Coppola


     I begin this review knowing that it will be one of my least popular.  Say a prayer for me.
     "Apocalypse Now: Redux" was released into theaters as Francis Ford Coppola's true vision.  Critics and film fans got excited and praised the new version for completing unfinished thoughts from the first version.  I didn't see the first version, so everything you read from this point out should be done so with the idea that if I say I didn't like a part, I didn't like it.  I don't have anything to compare it to.
     "Apocalypse Now" often gets mentioned in the same breath as some of the other all time greats.  I picked up "Apocalypse Now: Redux" completely expecting the same greatness and awe.  It wasn't there.
     For the uninitiated, "Apocalypse Now" is the story of one man's mission to terminate madness in the heart of the Cambodian jungle.  Topics dealt with range from the horrors of war to the madness of man.  It's a heavy film.  Everything has philosophical weight added to it and the viewer can only watch as the film heads on a steady course towards madness...and the end.
     Martin Sheen plays Captain Willard, the man the army told to destroy the embodiment of madness they had lost control of.  The man is Colonel Kurtz, the man who has become mostly myth to all the film's characters.
     Sheen gets holed up in a boat with a seventeen year old (Laurence Fishburne), a chef, a professional surfer who thoroughly enjoys getting high, and a chief who seems to resent everything Willard does.  They are the cast of characters for much of the film, traveling down the river as our guides to the action.
     First of all, the film is long.  The "Apocalypse Now: Redux" version is somewhere around two hundred minutes.  Two-thirds of the way through, this fact becomes abundantly clear. 
     In particular, the scene where the boat stops to talk with a family of Frenchmen seems terribly long.  The conversations during it would seem interesting in another film, but I felt incredibly bored during the discourse.
     Also, the film carries a very surreal feel to it.  I understand much of this was to communicate the madness around the action, but it could be off-putting at times. 
     The film does contain some of the best cinematography I have ever seen.  Shot after shot, everything is captured in a spectacular light, mist, or angle.  It's truly a masterpiece where cinematography is concerned.
     After seeing the first two "Godfathers" and "Apocalypse Now: Redux," I can see that Francis Ford Coppola likes to present things in a grand scheme.  Everything is big to him, so much bigger than you or I would imagine.  He does show an impeccible control of his actors.  Each performance is finely tuned.
     Martin Sheen gives a deep and silent rage-filled performance as Willard.  There's so much going on behind his eyes, and we get to see it often in ultra-close ups.  There's also a raw physicality to him that I could not have predicted based on his most current work.  He's a beast of war.
     Marlon Brando also gives an Osca-worthy performance as Col. Kurtz.  He speaks in such a hushed tone that every word he says is frightening.  The entire movie builds up his persona as the soldier gone mad.  When we finally see him, the image is haunting.
     The themes the film aspires to are noble and welcome, but the length and surreal portrayal of a real war hinder it.  Perhaps, upon a second viewing, I can appreciate the surrealness as a example of the madness of mankind, but right now it's all too much for me.

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