Apocalypse Now Redux (2001)

Genres - War  |   Sub-Genres - War Epic, Adventure Drama, Anti-War Film, Jungle Film, War Drama  |   Release Date - Aug 3, 2001 (USA - Limited)  |   Run Time - 205 min.  |   Countries - Belgium , United States   |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Mark Deming

Amidst the thousands of pages that have been written about Apocalypse Now since it was released in 1979, one would be hard-pressed to find anyone who held the opinion that the film really needed to be longer, so the prospect of a new cut of Apocalypse that included nearly an hour of unseen footage seemed highly intriguing without sounding like the best idea Francis Ford Coppola has ever had. Apocalypse Now Redux, Coppola's 203-minute reconstruction of his original edit of the film, manages to simultaneously reinforce what was good and what was bad about the original version of the picture. The two major set pieces that have been restored to Apocalypse -- an assignation between Willard (Martin Sheen), Chef (Frederic Forrest), and Lance (Sam Bottoms) and three Playboy bunnies stranded during a U.S.O. tour, and a visit to a plantation run by French emigres De Marais (Christian Marquand) and Roxanne (Aurore Clement) -- don't add much to the film, and while it's fascinating to see the sequences after reading about them for years, the truth is that the film plays better without them (especially the latter, which manages to further muddy the already fuzzy character of Willard during his liaison with Roxanne). The film's pace has always been erratic following the Do Lung Bridge sequence, and if anything, the new version moves with even less grace or consistency. But the many smaller bits of business that have been restored through the rest of the film are welcome, and the new version allows Albert Hall as Chief several superb moments (particularly during the makeshift funeral for Clean, played by Larry Fishburne), reinforcing his character as the only soldier in the film who seems to take his duties seriously, while Martin Sheen and Frederic Forrest both deliver their best screen performances to date. And the newly restored Technicolor dye-transfer prints are simply dazzling to look at; cinematographer Vittorio Storaro's use of color and depth of field were always impressive, but they've never looked quite so amazing as they do in this version, which demands to be seen on a big screen. Apocalypse Now was a film that grew too big and tried too much for its own good, but the best moments were more than enough to make up for its flaws, and that's even more true of Apocalypse Now Redux -- at nearly three-and-a-half hours, it's an epic with a heart, a mind, and a soul, and even its failures are fascinating, while its successes make it one of the most interesting American films of the 1970s.