Vietnam, the '70s. U.S. Army intelligence officer Captain Willard (Martin Sheen) is sent to Cambodia to eliminate the deranged US Colonel Walter E Kurtz (Marlon Brando). Kurtz is conducting unauthorised and bloody operations from a remote jungle compound guarded by local tribesmen and fellow U.S. soldiers who have also deserted. Taken up river in a patrol boat staffed by Chief (Albert Tucker), Chef (Frederic Forrest), Clean (Larry Fishburne) and Lance (Sam Bottoms), Willard encounters gung-ho Colonel Kilgore (Robert Duvall) and his helicopter division, a group of Playboy bunnies hired to entertain troops and a French family that has refused to leave its plantation. Finally the river leads to confrontation with the enigmatic Kurtz.

Even greater in an entirely new version.

Francis Ford Coppola started work on Apocalypse Now in 1975, soon after he completed the Oscar-winning Godfather Part II; four years, and $32 million later, he screened it as a work in progress at Cannes (winning the Palme d'Or) and I first saw it three months later at the Cinerama Dome in Hollywood in a 147min version which had no credits at all.

Inspired by Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, the film is an indictment of the American involvement in the Vietnam War, the story of Captain Willard's mission to travel upriver into Cambodia to terminate with extreme prejudice the renegade American officer Colonel Kurtz.

With its innovative sound, extraordinary camerawork by Vittorio Storaro, and its angry vision of an ugly war on the ground, the film became an instant classic. Now, 22 years later, Coppola has finally produced what we assume is his director's cut - 53 minutes of additional footage which contains some extraordinary revelations - the aftermath of the Playboy Bunny concert, the theft of Lt. Col. Kilgore's surfboard, life in a French plantation where the original colonists of Indo China cling to precarious power. Add to these new scenes a revealing additional sequence depicting Marlon Brando's shadowy Kurtz in broad daylight.

Redux is like seeing a new film; if you love the old Apocalypse Now, you should be even more thrilled with this more detailed, more revealing new version. The extra scenes have been seamlessly edited into the film; the soundtrack is as breathtaking as ever, and the performances are still remarkable - Brando's tormented Kurtz, Martin Sheen's appalled Willard, Robert Duvall's manic Kilgore are outstanding. This is a great film, even greater in an entirely new version - and it's appearance now, when American forces are again at war in Asia, couldn't be more timely.



Watch 'Apocalypse Now Redux'

Friday 30 April, 9:35pm on SBS World Movies (streaming after broadcast at SBS On Demand)

USA, 1979
Genre: Drama, War
Language: English, French, Cambodian, Vietnamese
Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Starring: Martin Sheen, Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall, Dennis Hopper, Laurence Fishburne

'Apocalypse Now: Redux', leaving SBS On Demand on March 22nd.

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