Apocalypse Now ★★★★½

"Who's in charge here, soldier?"
"Ain't you?"

Prior to this screening I had only watched Apocalypse Now once. It was the theatrical release available through Prime, which I saw mainly because I enjoy watching "classics"/films of significance, and it happened to be available at the time.

Nothing could have prepared me for what I saw.

All I really knew going in was that it was a Vietnam movie. That was my context. Pretty much from the moment it started I was sucked in. Visually, sonically, atmospherically - whatever was going on onscreen was something I had never come across before. There was a hidden 9/10's to this. That guy dancing drunk to The Doors, punching glass? That stream of napalm? The chaos of explosions? Real. Tribesmen hacking up a cow? Yes... That was real. This thing was nuts - it looked nuts, the production was nuts. Well, the war was nuts as well.

When the film finished I immediately knew this would become one of my favourite movies - I haven't claimed it as such; it's not currently on my literal favourites list. Somehow it didn't feel right for me to claim a film I'd only seen once as a favourite. I needed to reflect on it. Rewatch it. Absorb it.

Having watched it and loved it that first time, I soon bought the Theatrical, Redux and Hearts of Darkness doc on bluray. The documentary was fascinating - easily the most packed making-of I've probably ever seen in terms of on-set footage. Redux I intended on making my next watch - I was aware that it was not the favoured version, but I like to see things for myself (I still haven't seen it, however).

Then The Final Cut appeared.

I knew I had to watch it. I typically dislike going to screenings on my own, but this would have to be the exception because I could find no one to tag along and I wasn't going to miss it.

Well, I'm now fresh out from the screening and I loved it. The theatrical is a 5; this is a 4.5 - but only because of the French Plantation scene. It's the only part of the film I didn't enjoy and I don't think it adds anything of significance to the film; in fact, I'd probably say it detracts from it. We do get a nice closing off to Laurence Fishburne's character, but for me the rest just kills the pacing and distracts from the flow of the film.

When the crew get to the bridge, it honestly seems like this is it. They've reached the brink; we've reached the brink. This is the end of it all. There's no turning back. Who knows what lies ahead? As odd as the family on the plantation are, the sequence still feels like an unnecessary interval to the otherwise continual stream of insanity (both for the characters and the audience). The only natural point to go from the bridge is the death of the crew and the utter madness we encounter in Kurtz's domain. Remove the plantation scene and everything becomes beautiful, consistent chaos.

As a bonus, the showing included a newly recorded interview with Francis Ford Coppola, led by Steven Soderbergh (2 thirds of the audience left before it even started). It's a nice interview and there's a lot said about shooting the film and the lead up to it, as well as some interesting chatter. There is, however, nothing said about the thought process behind the decision to release a "Final Cut" after redux, nor any insight into the editing process, which I have to admit was a slight disappointment.

Overall though, it was a great experience; a near-perfect cut of an excellent film and an enjoyable interview. Well worth it and a joy to see on the big screen!