full title · Apocalypse Now
director · Francis Ford Coppola
leading actors · Martin Sheen, Marlon Brando
supporting actors · Robert Duvall, Dennis Hopper, Albert Hall, Frederic Forrest, Laurence Fishburne (credited Larry Fishburne), Sam Bottoms
type of work · Feature film
genre · War film (Vietnam)
language · English
time and place produced · Shot February 1976 through May 1977 in the Philippines; postproduction took place in California from May 1977 to May 1979
date of release · 1979
setting (time) · 1968
setting (place) · Vietnam
protagonist · U.S. army captain Benjamin Willard
major conflict · Willard must struggle against the horrors and hypocrisies of war and the darkness within himself to complete his mission and kill Colonel Kurtz.
rising action · As Willard works his way upriver to Kurtz, his target, he faces and participates in several of the war’s atrocities and absurdities, including a preemptive air strike on a Vietnamese village, a seedy USO show, and an attack on innocent Vietnamese peasants in a sampan, leading him to realize fully the futility of war and question whether he will complete his mission and kill Kurtz, a man whom he has come to admire and emulate to a disturbing degree.
climax · Willard’s mud-covered emergence from the river cements his Kurtzlike transformation and signals that he has given in to the dark side of his nature and will murder Kurtz in a ruthless, ritualistic fashion.
falling action · After murdering Kurtz, Willard is given the opportunity to replace the colonel as a godlike figure. In rejecting this opportunity, he rejects the acceptance of human evil as king.
themes · The hypocrisy of Western imperialism; madness as a result of war; the emptiness of American values
motifs · Darkness; escape; home
symbols · Masks; the river; fog
foreshadowing · The film opens with helicopters lurking ominously over the jungle, accompanied by the Doors’ moody song “The End”; Chef and Willard encounter a tiger when they venture off the boat to look for mangoes; Willard murders the Vietnamese peasant woman in the sampan; Lance smears his face with paint like the members of Kurtz’s army