Perhaps it’s no surprise that as Donald Trump incites campaign rallies with his promise to torture more bad guys, along comes Col. Kurtz to remind us of “the horror, the horror” — his radical notion that the only way to defeat savagery is by becoming a savage.
The Vietnam War was when everything started to go wrong for the American Empire — not just politically, but psychologically and morally — and director Francis Ford Coppola somehow managed to capture it all and more in his 1979 epic “Apocalypse Now.” It’s ironic that despite being set on a river, this may be the best road movie ever, with Capt. Willard (Martin Sheen) riding a gunboat deep into the primeval jungle of Cambodia on a mission to terminate the rogue Kurtz (Marlon Brando). The deeper it goes, the freakier it gets, and Willard has to confront the war-induced nihilism that’s already blown Kurtz’s mind.
Filled to the brim with iconic performances, images and dialogue (“I love the smell of napalm in the morning”), “Apocalypse Now” is a movie whose reputation has only grown over the years, and this month offers a rare chance to catch it on the big screen in a digitally remastered version. It’s the original, tighter 2½-hour film, not the director’s cut, and it looks cleaner than any print I’ve seen since the ’80s; it meticulously retains the grain and rich colors of Vittorio Storaro’s cinematography, while adapting Walter Murch’s original “quadrophonic” sound mix to 5.1 surround sound. Cinema doesn’t get any more immersive than this.
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