A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this film has dark and violent overtones. It is not recommended for kids. This is not a historical piece that glorifies the moral journeys of American soldiers. It includes excessive swearing, violence, and drug use. The film also presents American soldiers as overall hostile and excessively violent.
What's the story?
Francis Ford Coppola's APOCALYPSE NOW served as the director's artistic follow-up to his first two Godfather films (1972, 1974). The film chronicles Capt. Benjamin J. Willard's (Martin Sheen) journey down a hostile Vietnam river to find and kill a crazed Green Beret, Colonel Kurtz (Marlon Brando). The majority of the film follows Willard and his shipmates (Laurence Fishburne, Sam Bottoms, Frederic Forrest, Albert Hall) as they travel to their classified destination. Ultimately, Willard must face the horror of the world Kurtz has created.
Is it any good?
One of the crown jewels of Zoetrope Studios, this intense, potent film is infamous for its director's over-budget and over-schedule process. The six-week shoot ultimately took 16 months. The project was plagued by problems. Coppola shot nearly 200 hours of film and took almost three years to edit the project. Despite multiple glitches in the process, the final product is a gripping and incredibly disturbing image of the murkiness of war and the depths of human depravity. Despite it being one of the greatest films of all time, parents might want to consider the film's psychological suspense and extreme violence before letting their teens watch it.
Apocalypse features outstanding performances by Sheen, Fishburne and Forrest. Robert Duvall gives a disturbing performance as Lieutenant Kilgore, a man who finds surfing and combat compatible activities and the character credited with one of the films most famous lines, "I love the smell of napalm in the morning." The film went on to garner two Academy Awards, six additional nominations, and won the Golden Palm at the Cannes Film Festival.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about moral and cinematic issues. The film portrays Vietnam soldiers in various ways: cold-blooded murderers, drug addicts, kids, etc. Does Lieutenant Colonel Kilgore's obsession with battleground surfing present any ideological problems? How does the film draw on Lance's drug use to comment on the overall experience and psyche of the Vietnam soldier? How do Willard's and Kurtz's horrific visions and acts comment on the murkiness of war? How does this film add to the existing historical and journalistic discourse regarding Vietnam veterans? What liberties does the film take with its source material, Heart of Darkness?
- In theaters: January 1, 1979
- On DVD or streaming: November 9, 1999
- Cast: Marlon Brando, Martin Sheen, Robert Duvall
- Director: Francis Ford Coppola
- Studio: Paramount Pictures
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 153 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: disturbing violent images, language, sexual content and some drug use
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