Blu-ray Review: Francis Ford Coppola’s Masterpiece APOCALYPSE NOW Final Cut

5 out of 5 stars

Francis Ford Coppola‘s Apocalypse Now isn’t just a movie – it’s a cinematic legend, a cautionary tale of how a director’s passion and drive was almost their undoing. The making of the film is now tied to its cinematic legacy – you simply can’t have one without the other. 

A loose retelling of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, Apocalypse Now is set in 1969 as the Vietnam War still rages. It follows Martin Sheen’s Willard on his mission into Cambodia to assassinate Colonel Kurtz (Marlon Brando). It’s a perilous journey for Willard, as he not only has to beware of the dangers of the jungle but also the dangers within himself.  

The cast for Apocalypse Now is stacked with a top-tier cast. Not only is it top-lined by a never better Martin Sheen (who replaced Harvey Keitel during filming) and an intense Marlon Brando but the film also has Robert Duvall, Dennis Hopper, Harrison Ford (playing G. Lucas, geddit?) and a very young Laurence Fishburne rounding out the roster. Throw in a script by Coppola and John Milius and you have not just one of the defining films of the 1970s, but one of the all-time greats. 

Shot on location in the Philippines, the production of Apocalypse Now was a torturous experience for all involved.  From Harvey Keitel’s firing to Martin Sheen‘s heart attack and Brando arriving onset over-weight and underprepared, it looked like the film would be the end of Coppola’s career. It’s hard to believe that George Lucas wanted to shoot it documentary-style with a small crew in Vietnam. Only his desire to make American Graffiti dissuaded him. However, against all odds, he managed to finish the film and turn it into a bona fide hit ($78 million US gross in 1977 is pretty good going). However, despite the film’s success, alongside Michael Cimino’s Heaven’s Gate in 1980, it was one of the final nails in the coffin of the excess of the 1970s auteur period. 

Forty years on and Apocalypse Now is still a stunning achievement. It’s a masterpiece in every way, from its technical marvels to the performances – this is true cinema in every meaning of the term. 

Special Feature

Studiocanal has now delivered the definitive release of Apocalypse Now. This never-before-seen and newly restored cut of Francis Ford Coppola’s opus comes stacked (and I mean stacked) with extras. This 4-disc collection includes all three versions of Coppola’s opus – Apocalypse Now: The Final Cut, Apocalypse Now: Theatrical Cut and Apocalypse Now Redux Extended Cut. You’d think that would be enough but the set also includes interviews, deleted scenes, B-roll footage, a commentary, featurettes, behind-the-scenes material – and Eleanor Coppola’s fantastic documentary Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse.

Without a doubt, this is one of the greatest Blu-ray releases of all time.