The second “new” cut of Francis Ford Coppola’s 1979 hallucinatory masterpiece (following 2001’s “Apocalypse Now Redux”) is a 4k restoration that draws the viewer’s attention to the stunning visuals and, in the process, crystallizes the experience. For instance, in my previous watch I found the jungle war settling disorienting because of its omnipresence, whereas this restoration highlights the majesty that Coppola’s camera captures and also helps illuminate the narrative in the process. Its renewed focus brings closer attention to Martin Sheen’s tortured main character, an assassin sent to terminate Marlon Brandon’s General Kurtz, who has turned messianic mass murderer in the Vietnamese jungle – the character’s arc takes central focus once the visuals are stabilized, putting Sheen in the middle of an extraordinarily difficult journey and serving as a literal narrator of the Vietnam experience. The first half is grandiose and entertaining, including the famous Ride of the Valkyries sequence with a stony Robert Duvall, while the second half takes a pitch-black turn and quickly becomes something of a psychedelic horror movie rooted in unimaginable inhumanity. The movie’s scale is truly enormous and it’s a downright miracle that the movie is even coherent, and while there are some issues here and there (in particular the French plantation scene, which is eerie like a Val Lewton horror movie but damages the movie’s pace), it’s a mind-blowing masterpiece that’s unlike anything else.
Rating: ★★★★★ (out of 5)