Many war films have been made, but there will always be one that sticks out. “Apocalypse Now” is that one for me. There’s the pure talent of the actors, the intense violence and the interesting period of the Vietnam War. But there’s a much stronger theme that stands out; the depiction of war from a psychological perspective.
As the movie opens, we see Martin Sheen’s character looking up at ceiling fan. The fan starts to sound like helicopter blades cutting through the air and he then starts moving around the room like he is in the jungle. We see the trauma the war has had on Sheen. We soon learn that he isn’t the only character facing mental damage from this war.
As Sheen enters the base for his mission briefing, we get to hear how the war has changed Marlon Brando’s character. Brando has gone rogue and is causing troubles deep in Vietcong territory. But it is on audio recordings we hear his broken mental state.
“I watched a snail crawl along the edge of a straight razor. That’s my dream; that’s my nightmare. Crawling, slithering, along the edge of a straight razor…and surviving.”
This quote is so powerful. This is a person who has gone in and out of hostile territory and survived just like the snail on the straight razor’s edge. As the film progresses, we see just how twisted Brando has become from the Vietnam War. But not all have become bloodthirsty psychopaths from this war. We see this in Robert Duval’s character.
Though Duval isn’t in the film for long, we get some of the best quotes from him, which reflects how the war has affected him. We see him as this rough-and-tumble leader who has honor for anyone who is brave. But as soon as he hears another surfer is around, he turns into a happy little kid wanting to surf, showing war can change you in a split second. There is, however, one final example of the hell of war.
In an attempt to avoid spoiling it, the characters involved in this incident will be renamed with Blue and Red.
Blue and Red have been butting heads the entire film, but during a spear attack, Red gets a spear in his throat. As he is dying, Blue leans in hear the final words of Red. But Red instead tries to pull Blue onto the spearhead to kill him. War has finally brought Red to his breaking point in the film.
“Apocalypse Now” shows the mental and emotional scars from conflict, and it does it so well.