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Friday, 23 November, 2001, 15:44 GMT
Coppola classic gets millennial makeover
Martin Sheen in Apocalypse Now - Redux
The new version is 202 minutes long
By BBC News Online's Neil Smith

"This is the end, my only friend the end," Jim Morrison groans at the start of Francis Ford Coppola's Vietnam epic Apocalypse Now.

But the end is 49 minutes further off than before in Apocalypse Now Redux, an "all-new version" of the groundbreaking war movie that includes never-before-seen footage excised from the 1979 original.

The new edition clocks in at a whopping 202 minutes - although that is nothing compared to the 250 hours of footage Coppola shot in a film which took so long to make some wags dubbed it "Apocalypse When?"

Yet despite the extra demands placed on the viewer's patience (not to mention posterior!), there is no denying Redux is a richer, bolder and more insightful work.

Martin Sheen as Captain Willard
Sheen makes the bigger impression now
Based on Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, the film tracks the journey of Captain Willard (Martin Sheen), a US Army intelligence officer sent up river into Cambodia to terminate the renegade Colonel Kurtz (Marlon Brando).

This time around, though, the trip is even more incident-packed thanks to the insertion of two extended sequences.

The first is another encounter with the Playboy playmates, a trio of Odyssean sirens who provide Willard's drug-addled crew with a brief respite from their hazardous mission.

The second involves a sojourn at an isolated French plantation, where Willard has dinner with a group of stubborn colonials before spending the night with a young widow (Aurore Clement).

You also get more Brando for your buck towards the end of the film.

The result is a languid, thoughtful work which forsakes the forward momentum of the more action-oriented original.

What it boasts instead is a poetic grandeur and moral complexity that were only hinted at 22 years ago.

Back then it was Brando who dominated. It was his face that appeared on the poster, and his charisma cast a looming shadow over everything that preceded his 11th hour appearance.

Interestingly, though, it is Sheen who makes the bigger impression now - perhaps because his conflicted hero seems more in keeping with our own uncertain times.

"I love the smell of napalm in the morning. Smells like... victory," says Robert Duvall's Colonel Kilgore in one of writer John Milius's most memorable lines of dialogue.

But the victory is really Francis Ford Coppola's for creating a revised Apocalypse that, while not necessarily an improvement on the original, is unquestionably its equal.

Apocalypse Now - Redux is on general release from 23 November.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Film critic Alexander Walker on BBC's Front Row
"It has everything to offer a new generation"
See also:

23 Nov 01 | Reviews
Apocalypse Now Redux: Your views
08 May 01 | Film
Apocalypse returns to Cannes
26 Oct 01 | Reviews
Brando book uncovers complex star
18 May 01 | TV and Radio
Protesters target Sheen
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