Apocalypse Now review (3-disc Blu-ray)

Is there anything left to say about Apocalypse Now, the seminal Vietnam war film from Coppola, that hasn't already been said? Probably not. Is it the greatest war film ever made? Most likely, yes (although Kubrick's stunning Full Metal Jacket would have to come a close second). Is it one of the most emotionally draining movie experiences you'll ever have? Yes indeed. Which is why Apocalypse Now is one of those films that you simply MUST see at least once in your life.

More than 30 years after its initial release, Apocalypse Now still stands as a masterpiece of filmmaking. So many of the films that hit the multiplexes these days are quickly forgotten about. That's not to say that the industry isn't making high quality movies – that simply isn't the case – but when was the last time we saw the release of a truly great movie? Coppola's Apocalypse Now is just that: a great movie. It's a masterpiece; a true epic, the power and effect of which have transcended time. The film hasn't faltered an inch over time and remains a significant and important landmark of cinema. "Classic" doesn't do it justice. More than three decades later, we're still applauding its ambitious, stunning scope and endlessly quoting its motley crew of bold characters. Who could forget the performances of the all-star cast? Apocalypse Now is another fine example of why Coppola's name enjoys mentions in the same breath as Sergio Leone, Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg.

Just in case you're one of the few people reading this who has never actually seen Apocalypse Now, it's the story of US soldier Captain Benjamin Willard (Sheen), sent on a mission to "terminate with extreme prejudice" the mysterious Green Beret Colonel Kurtz (Brando) who has gone rogue in the depths of Cambodia's jungle. And that, in a nutshell, is the plot. The film is less about the war than it is about the journey Willard takes and how he deals with the madness that surrounds him. It's about the sheer insanity of war, and what it does to people. Visually, the film is breathtaking in its sweep – the famous Ride of the Valkyries helicopter sequence is iconic – and, at times, surreal and even claustrophobic. It's chock-full of classic, oft-quoted lines – particularly Duvall's Colonel Kilgore and his "I love the smell of napalm in the morning". It's chock-full of wonderful performances from some amazing actors, but the standout is Sheen, as the heart and soul of the film. Some say that The West Wing's President Bartlett is his crowning achievement, but nothing will ever top his Captain Willard. It's a career-defining performance – and one he has never, and likely will never, top.

Apocalypse Now is beautiful, scary, exciting, frustrating and absorbing. And this newly-remastered Blu-ray release is simply stunning. Be sure not to miss it – they really don't make them like this any more.

EXTRAS ★★★★★ Now to the extras - and what a package it is. The three discs include both versions of the film (each with an audio commentary from Coppola), the Hearts of Darkness making-of documentary (and an amazing array of bonus features that cover every aspect of the production ...Disc 1: Apocalypse Now feature / Apocalypse Now Redux feature / Audio commentary by Francis Ford Coppola. Disc 2: Interview with John Milius (49 mins) / Interview with Fred Roos (casting Apocalypse) (12 mins) / A Conversation with Martin Sheen and Francis Ford Coppola (60 mins) / The Mercury Theatre on Air: Hearts of Darkness Nov 6 1938 (37 mins) / The Hollow Men (17 mins) / Monkey Sampan “Lost Scene” (3 mins) / Additional Scenes (27 mins) / Kurtz Compound Destruction with credits (6 mins) / The Birth of 5.1 sound (6 mins) / Ghost Helicopter Flyover (4 mins) / Apocalypse Now: The Synthesizer Soundtrack by Bob Moog (still images) / A Milion Feet of Film: The Editing of Apocalypse Now (18 mins) / The Music of Apocalypse Now (15 mins) / The Sound Design of Apocalypse Now (15 mins) / The Final Mix (3 mins) / Apocalypse Then & Now (4 mins) / 2001 Cannes Film Festival: Francis Ford Coppola (39 mins) / PBR Streetgang (4 mins) / The Colour Palette of Apocalypse Now (4 mins) / Disc credits. Disc 3: Hearts of Darkness feature / Audio commentary by Francis and Eleanor Coppola / John Milius script excerpt with Francis Ford Coppola notes / Storyboard Collection / Photo Archive: unit photography, Mary Ellen Mark photography / Marketing Archive: original trailer, radio spots, theatrical program, lobby card and press kit, photos. 

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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