Another film that is part of the Tribeca Film Festival Anniversary section. This part war film/part take on Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness was released in 1979, so it is celebrating its 40th anniversary.
What else can be said about this film that hasn’t already been said? It is long, great, moving, scary, well-directed, and a stunning piece of work by everyone involved. Many stories have come out of the filming of this movie (Francis Ford Coppola losing his mind, Martin Sheen dying and then coming back to life, starting filming with an unfinished script, etc.), but none managed to detract from the final product. In actuality everything that happened around the film made it even that much more interesting. The legends became part of the watcher’s experience.
It was filmed in the Philippines and it rains throughout the film. This dark and rainy background provided the perfect setting for this retelling of Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness”‘ the novel the screenplay by John Milius (Clear and Present Danger, Farewell to the King) is based on. The cinematography by Vittorio Storaro (Dick Tracy, Reds) is mind blowing. The juxtaposition of light and darkness almost takes on a life itself. To categorize this film as simply a war film would be a mistake. It is more an examination into the depths of the human psyche. There are great performances by Robert Duvall, Martin Sheen and Marlon Brando and the film introduces Harrison Ford and Laurence Fishburne to us.
Captain Willard (Martin Sheen – from television’s The West Wing) is sent on a top secret mission by Colonel Lucas (Harrison Ford – Star Wars, Firewall) during the Vietnam War upriver. He and his small boat crew have been ordered to find and kill the rebellious Colonel Kurtz (Marlon Brando). The Green Beret Colonel Kurtz has lost his mind and has set up his troop in Cambodia. He has defected with his men and he is making hits on the Viet Cong from there. As such he has become a type of mythical legend amongst the American troops.
The task of traveling upriver into Cambodia is fraught with danger due to the war going on and the general environment. They are met by a helicopter troop headed by Lieutenant Colonel Kilgore (Robert Duvall – The Godfather: Part II, Days of Thunder), who helps them destroy a Viet Cong outpost at the mouth of the Nung River. The small crew travels into deeper and deeper fog and when they finally arrive at Kurtz’s compound things begin to become even more surreal.
The crew gets caught up with drugs and their behaviour becomes more and more unpredictable. Willard, Lance (Sam Bottoms – Shopgirl, Seabiscuit) and Chef (Frederic Forrest – Falling Down, Music Box) are captured by Kurtz and some of the other members of the troop are killed. As time goes on, it begins to get hard to tell the difference between Kurtz and Willard.