Posts Tagged ‘ Martin Sheen ’

The Heart of Darkness of Apocalypse Now

apocalypsenow235“My film is not about Vietnam, it is Vietnam. The way we made it is the way Americans were in Vietnam. We had too much money, too much equipment and little by little we went insane.”  – Francis Ford Coppola

Four years in the making, and literally almost the death of some of those involved, “Apocalypse Now” remains today one of the most ground-breaking, surreal and audacious films ever made. Using the Vietnam War as a backdrop to Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness”, the film won two Oscars and has been cited ever since as one of the greatest achievements in the history of filmmaking. The work put into “Apocalypse Now”, and the troubles and freak occurrences behind the production, were exceptional and to read about them would lead one to wonder how the film was ever even made.

Capturing the insanity and the ‘heart of darkness’ of Conrad’s tale, ingeniously employing the Vietnam War as a backdrop to this phenomenal text, “Apocalypse Now” is a relentlessly dark and horrifying film. As beautiful as it is violent, it balances the darkness and the light well until the final part when the darkness completely takes over. It is a satirical view of the Vietnam War in one sense; as it portrays the futility of the war in the form of abandoned outposts along the Nung River, where undisciplined soldiers have descended into savagery. Coppola’s masterpiece is laced with so many layers of symbolism that it takes quite a number of viewings in order to appreciate everything that unfolds on the screen. And to learn about the background and the production of the film will also contribute to one appreciating everything that “Apocalypse Now” is. Nothing was ever quite achieved like it before, nor has anything like it been achieved since. It is one of the most surreal, captivating and beautifully worked films of all time.

Captain Willard (Martin Sheen), is a US Army Special Forces Officer, rendered to float in drunken limbo in Saigon until his next mission is handed down to him by intelligence. Willard is briefed by his superiors on a Col. Walter. E. Kurtz – a highly decorated Green Beret turned renegade who has gone “insane” and is operating from within the jungles of Cambodia with the tribes who he has asserted himself as a god-like figure over. Willard is instructed to travel up the Nung River on a Navy patrol boat, to locate the Colonel, and to terminate his command. “Terminate with extreme prejudice.” Willard’s journey up river into Cambodia is a metaphor for the journey into the dark heart of man, concealed by a thin surface crust portraying the madness of war. Along the way, he and his Navy crew are escorted by a manic Colonel (Robert Duvall in an infamous performance) and his squadron of gung-ho attack helicopters. They arrive at isolated and ravished US outposts amidst constant threat all while the men become restless and wary of Willard’s classified mission. Willard himself is confused, as the more he reads into the records and biography of the man he is to murder, the more he questions the mission and the ever-increasing ambiguity of what exactly constitutes murder and insanity in a place like this.

One only has to watch the 1991 documentary “Heart of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse” to a get a sense of just how close this movie came to not being made, scrapped, or destroyed. Filming began in 1974, and didn’t end until sometime 1979. The editing of the 200 hour film was what took up most of that time, as one can probably imagine. Essentially, “Apocalypse Now” almost destroyed Francis Ford Coppola’s career, and his life. Millions of dollars over-budget before filming even commenced, Coppola had to invest his own personal fortune into the film. He contemplated suicide after a barrage of mishaps and when it looked as though the studio was considering just abandoning them all out in the jungle. Marlon Brando was a huge problem; he was depressed, overweight, and couldn’t remember his lines and argued everyday with Coppola over the dialogue. Martin Sheen was called in to take the role after it was determined that Harvey Keitel wasn’t going to hack it. Sheen, however, was a raging alcoholic at this time and suffered a heart attack shortly after filming began. Dennis Hopper was off his head on drugs for the majority of the shooting, and the undisciplined motley crew of props men, stunts men and other assorted film crew were running up the bill and causing havoc, and then to top it all off – a real war broke out nearby. The troops of the Philippines army had to be withdrawn from the set where they were being used as extras to take-down some rebels on a nearby island. The local police were called to the set after a crazy prop’s man managed to get his hands on some real dead bodies from a grave-digger to use on set to help create a better atmosphere, and the filmmaker’s passports were confiscated as a result.

And finally, after everything was filmed – some guy goes crazy in the editing department and takes the film reels hostage in a locked room for a few hours and threatens to burn them, until he is talked out of it. The making of “Apocalypse Now” may be classified as a circus, but it is undeniably one of the most inspirational filmmaking tales of all time. By hauling his 900 crew and cast out into the jungle into uncertainty, Coppola inadvertently managed to create the very thing that he was attempting to portray – insanity, and the duality of men.

The Amazing Spider-Man

Only ten years after Toby Maguire brought Spider-Man to life director Marc Webb (500 days of Summer) has not only spun a new story on Spider-Man’s origins but has managed to make a really good film.

Like in all versions Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) is bit by a genetically enhanced spider and develops skills any teenage-boy (and girl) would dream of. But this time around his advisory is the one armed scientist Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans) who turns into a rampaging mutant lizard after injecting himself with a formula to regenerate DNA. Of course the love story is not forgotten but instead of the normally beautiful but boring Mary-Jane, Parker falls for his high-school classmate the sexy, sassy and smart Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone). An extra twist is given when it turns out that her father (Dennis Leary) is the captain of the taskforce trying to put Spider-Man in jail.

Unlike director Sam Raimi ‘s original trilogy, Webb doesn’t rely on action sequences but takes time in developing characters, which gives them more depth. This is most noticeable in Andrew Garfield’s portrayal of Peter Parker, he isn’t just the Hollywood version of a nerd or geek but has a darker side and harder edge to him. And while he is a good guy and tries to do the right thing he is believable still is a teenager trying to figure out life, not just his Spider-Man persona.

And with the charming Emma Stone playing his love-interest Gwen, who already has a crush on him before he turns into a superhero, the relationship is more believable and the chemistry undeniable. Stone is more than just a pretty face or arm-candy but a true partner who will not be sidelined.

Of course there are still some general bases of the story that The Amazing Spider-Man covers, like the killing of Parker’s Uncle Ben, but Martin Sheen’s portrayal of him is edgier and somehow that makes his death even sadder. Sally Field cast as Aunt May is brilliant, she isn’t a caricature but a real person and you can feel her pain and confusion. She is a relatable mother figure and a good solid foundation to help understand Parker’s motivations.

This reboot of Spider-Man is well worth watching and while Webb only uses the 3D effects sparsely throughout the film they tend to stand out more and seem less of a gimmick. This makes The Amazing Spider-Man just as good in two dimensions and overall a better-told story.  It is fast paced and you don’t feel the more than two hours it takes to come to the end.  The film has a sleek slightly futuristic look and feel to it, which makes it all the more enjoyable to watch.

On a side-note it is well worth mentioning that the musical score by James Horner is interesting and exciting. And for all of you, who rush out of the movies once the end credits start to roll, sit tight as you may get a peek at what a sequel could hold.