Are My Methods Unsound Apocalypse Now

Ellen Grant
• Sunday, 01 November, 2020
• 11 min read

One addresses the specific hardships and adventures, acts of bravery and cowardice, and sociopolitical context around a particular conflict. The two cross-pollinate, of course (Platoon, with its two father figures fighting for the soul of a son, has almost biblical overtones, while Apocalypse could not be made about any other war than Vietnam), but it is a useful way of dividing the genre.

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Francis Ford Coppola’s 1979 epic was, as his wife Eleanor described it in the documentary Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse, “a metaphor for a journey into self.” It followed a lone agent as he made his way up a river to find a mad soldier, Kurtz, who had gone rogue and begun to raise his own army, somewhere in the jungle. As this agent, Willard (played by Martin Sheen), ventures farther up the river, he goes deeper into himself, seemingly traveling back in time to a primitive age.

She might wear a helmet, she might be protected by body armor, she may travel in a military-grade personnel carrier, she may fire an automatic weapon and duck from explosions, but she’s not a soldier. He shows up in Arizona wearing flip-flops and bifocals, with the warm demeanor of a surfing instructor.

But as she gets increasingly involved with Graver’s mission, she learns, as her boss tells her, that the boundaries have changed. In the first half of the film, Benicia Del Too’s Alejandro character is seemingly there to filibuster all of these efforts.

Where Alejandro is all scar tissue and darkness, Graver’s eyes sparkle; he is in his element. Whether he’s riding in an SUV convoy with a cartel higher-up or leading a raid through tunnels connecting Arizona and Mexico, Graver has the look of someone who already knows how a story ends.

Lt. Col. Kilgore: They were going to make me a major for this, and I wasn't even in their fucking army anymore. I felt like he was up there waiting for me to take the pain away.

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Benjamin Willard: Part of me was afraid of what I would find and what I would do when I got there. But the thing I felt the most, much stronger than fear, was the desire to confront him.

I ain't afraid of all them fucking' skulls and altars and shit. We cut 'em in half with a machine gun and give 'em a Band-Aid.

Benjamin Willard: The bullshit piled up so fast in Vietnam, you needed wings to stay above it. Colonel Kurtz: I worry that my son might not understand what I've tried to be.

Benjamin Willard: Who's the commanding officer here, soldier? In this war, things get confused out there, power, ideals, the old morality, practical military necessity.

Because there's a conflict in every human heart, between the rational and the irrational, between good and evil. Sometimes, the dark side overcomes what Lincoln called the better angels of our nature.

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Benjamin Willard: The First of the Ninth was an old cavalry division that traded in their horses for helicopters and went teargassing around 'Nam looking for the shit... Benjamin Willard: The crew were mostly kids; rock & rollers with one foot in their grave.

Colonel: Your mission is to proceed up the Sung River in a Navy patrol boat. Pick up Colonel Kurtz's path at Nu Mung Ba, follow it and learn what you can along the way.

Benjamin Willard: Terminate the Colonel? General: He's out there operating without any decent restraint, totally beyond the pale of any acceptable human conduct.

Colonel Kurtz: Did they say why, Willard, why they want to terminate my command? Benjamin Willard: I was sent on a classified mission, sir.

Colonel Kurtz: It's no longer classified, is it? Benjamin Willard: They told me that you had gone totally insane, and that your methods were unsound.

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Colonel Kurtz: We train young men to drop fire on people, but their commanders won't allow them to write “fuck” on their airplanes because it's obscene! Lt. Col. Kilgore: I love the smell of napalm in the morning.

Lt. Col. Kilgore: Any man brave enough to fight wit his guts strapped to him can drink from my canteen any day. Benjamin Willard: You'll never find out about yourself working in some fucking factory in Ohio.

You're an errand boy, sent by grocery clerks, to collect a bill. Colonel Kurtz: I watched a snail crawl along the edge of a straight razor.

Crawling, slithering, along the edge of a straight razor... and surviving. Lt. Col. Kilgore: This war's going to end someday.

Benjamin Willard: I wanted a mission and for my sins they gave me one. You are an errand boy sent by grocery clerks to collect a bill.

apocalypse 1979
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Lt. Carlson: You're in the asshole of the world Captain. You're an errand boy, sent by grocery clerks, to collect a bill.

Lt. Col. Kilgore: I love the smell of napalm in the morning. Lt. Col. Kilgore: I love the smell of napalm in the morning.

Benjamin Willard: Saigon... Shit... I'm still only in Saigon... Every time I think I'm going to wake up back in the jungle.

And every minute Charlie squats in the bush he gets stronger. Each time I look around the walls move in a little tighter...

Pig after pig, cow after cow, village after village, army after army... and they call me an assassin. Lt. Col. Kilgore: I am beyond their timed, lying morality.

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Lt. Col. Kilgore: I am beyond their timid lying morality, and so I am beyond caring. Lt. Col. Kilgore: I love the smell of napalm in the morning.

Colonel Kurtz: You're an Erin Boy.... Sent By Grocery Clerks.... To Collect The Bill... You're an errand boy, sent by grocery clerks, to collect a bill.

Benjamin Willard: They said you'd gone totally insane and that your methods were... unsound. Benjamin Willard: They said you'd gone totally insane and that your methods were, unsound.

Lt. Col. Kilgore: I asked for a mission and for my sins they gave me one. Pig after pig... cow after cow... village after village... army after army...

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