Dinelka Balasuriya’s review published on Letterboxd:
Back in the 70s, Francis Ford Coppola is what Christopher Nolan is today. A film-making genius. Following the masterpeices that are The Godfather and The Godfather, Coppola had desires of making a war movie called 'Apocalypse Now' but various production problems rose. Now, marking its 24th year since its release, it is definitely interesting to see how successful Coppola was.
On my first viewing, I was incredibly let down by Apocalypse Now. I found the characters rather uninteresting, especially Willard's crew and I wasn't all that into the story. The film itself felt incredibly inconsistent in terms of pacing and I wondered whether or not Coppola decided to release this film simply because of the infinite problems he encountered during its production. The only aspect I loved about the film was Marlon Brando's performance, after all he's fast become my favorite actor.
I am truly relieved to say that on my second viewing of the film (the theatrical cut), I enjoyed the film a lot though I still have some problems with the film as a whole. The pacing at times, still does seem inconsistent and it seems like many scenes could easily have been cut down. When watching Coppola's first two Godfather films, they are so tight in that they don't have unneccessary sequences but Apocalypse Now is different. I understand that Coppola didn't want to approach it the way he approached The Godfather but there comes a time in the film where it becomes far less interesting. The opening 20 minutes were outstanding as Willard is explained his mission. However, there are scenes on the boat and especially the sequence at the night show which feels long and drawn out and I couldn't understand why. Hopefully, I just missed some crucial information.
In terms of visuals, Apocalypse Now looks majestic. Every shot is filmed with precision as Coppola shows that he is the master of manipulation. The premise is definitely a lot more engaging, a large part of it due to the brilliance of the opening 20 minutes. Kurtz and Willard are both written as troubled yet intriguing characters. Both have seen the worst of war and whilst one doesn't want to ever go back, another does as it is all that's left for him. I found that an interesting thing right there.
Like before, the supporting characters like Mr Clean, Chef, Lance and so on do feel rather bland and stereotypical. When you look at The Godfather (I shouldn't make too many comparisons to it), every supporting character is layered. No one comes off as cliched but in the case of Apocalypse Now, I found some characters were uninteresting.
Performance wise, Brando's cameo is completely brilliant giving us one of his finest performances (which says a lot). Martin Sheen, too, does a fantastic job making him a truly sympathetic character, even when commits cold acts. Lawrence Fisburne whilst serviceable in the role of Mr Clean, I found him to be rather annoying at times. This has happened on both viewings.
Though Apocalypse Now is considered as the greatest War movie ever made, I can still only bring myself to enjoy the film. I cannot imagine what it may be like to watch the Redux version of the film.