One of the most memorable scenes in the film comes when the boat crew encounters Robert Duvall's military detachment. The attack helicopters that Duvall commands blast Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries in order to frighten the inhabitants as napalm is sprayed over the jungle. It is obvious that there is no attempt to distinguish between civilian and military targets, and Duvall's camp is loud and chaotic. One of the most memorable lines in the film "I love the smell of napalm in the morning" is found in this scene, as well. This scene also illustrates the attempt by soldiers to maintain some sense of home in their attempts to surf while there are people dying around them, and the dichotomy of these disparate events, along with the soundtrack and the general chaos reinforces the idea that this is not a traditional war film.
The boat crew is slowly killed off as the boat moves upriver, and when Willard finally arrives at Kurtz's compound, he is met by Dennis Hopper who plays a strung-out photographer who is caught up in Kurtz's spell and who serves to try to explain Kurtz to Willard. There are intellectual conversations between Kurtz, who knows that Willard has been sent to kill him, and Willard, and scenes of extreme violence as Hopper's character is killed and savagely displayed. What sets these scenes apart from other war movies is not only their violence, but the fact that this is American-on-American violence. Granted, Kurtz is portrayed as a military man who has clearly strayed from the military path, but audiences were not used to seeing even renegade officers portrayed in this way. There is also the ambiguity of which character Kurtz or Willard has the moral high ground given that Willard's purpose is to execute Kurtz without benefit of judicial due process.
Apocalypse Now was made after the last helicopters left Saigon and after the nation had time to reflect on what the war and the protests against it had meant. The Vi...
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