starring Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall, Martin Sheen, Frederic Forrest
screenplay by John Milius and Francis Coppola, narration by Michael Herr
directed by Francis Coppola
by Walter Chaw Taking his cue from Orson Welles's aborted screen translation of Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now sought to transplant Marlow's journey down the Congo in pursuit of mad ivory trader Kurtz to Vietnam during the war. America's involvement in Southeast Asia is, of course, a good fit with what Conrad calls "one of the dark places of the world," and Apocalypse Now, easily one of the most literary big-budget blockbusters of the modern era, is utterly faithful to the intellectual and visceral impact of Conrad's vision. Apocalypse Now is so overheated and pretentious, in fact, that the best way to explain its thematic core might be through an examination of the ways it uses three T.S. Eliot poems (The Wasteland, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, The Hollow Men) and nods obliquely towards a fourth (The Dry Salvages, which refers to the animalism of rivers as the "brown god").