Apocalypse Now- Craig Smith
"Apocalypse Now" is a unique war movie in that it doesn't concentrate on specific and accurate accounts of battles, such as the Normandy Invasion in "Saving Private Ryan", or tells the story of a real life individual, such as in "Born on the Fourth of July". Instead, it focuses on what a war like the Vietnam War does to soldiers, which is done through the character development of Cpt. Willard and his Men as they travel via swiftboat up the Nung River into Cambodia to terminate an AWOL officer, Col. Kurtz, with "extreme prejudice." The film does an excellent job of allowing us civilians to see what the experience of war can do to a person. Lance, the happy and famous surfer in the beginning of the film, turns to drugs to numb the fear and pain he experiences in the war. Capt. Willard has been in combat for so long and seen so many horrible things that he doesn't seem to be able to function normally outside of a combat situation. In the opening scene, we see him going nuts in his apartment in Saigon, aching to go back into the jungle on a mission. Finally, we see what the war can do to even the most accomplished of individuals. Col Kurtz goes AWOL and starts a sort of kingdom of "pagan idolatry", of which he is the deity of many southeast asian natives and several US military personnel who came to see Kurtz's ways. As the movie progresses, we also see the violence of war as the men encounter resistance along their journey. Several of the crew are killed, which deeply impacts the surviving members. The film leaves the viewer (at least in my case) thanking god that I haven't been in a situation similar to the ones in the film, which is probably what Coppola was going for.
Although "Apocalypse Now" does a great job showing viewers the horrors of war, it completely avoids the historical notions of what a war film is like. Many war films before it, such as "Sahara", had clear delineation between the good and the bad sides, heroes and villains, and national pride and morale. It is very difficult to distinguish these characteristics in "Apocalypse Now". Col. Kurtz, Lt.Col. Kilgore, and Capt. Willard and his men cannot be easily described as "good" or "bad". Some are more innocent than others, but all have aspects of good and bad in them. By creating his characters this way, Coppola creates a much more realistic and poignant picture of war, which allows viewers to more accurately see what war is/was like.