Francis Ford Coppola's films are always founded on gripping images (the eavesdropping of The Conversation, the baptism-assassination of The Godfather, the helicopter attack here), but he's rarely been able to integrate them into a coherent narrative. With its crazy rhythm, discontinuity, and thematic confusion, Apocalypse Now (1979) suggests more than any other of his films that Coppola might be happier as a painter or photographer; the story seems to engage him only as the occasion for the graphic effects. There are worse ways to make movies, but there are a lot of better ones too. Martin Sheen tracks Marlon Brando up the rivers of Vietnam and across a metaphorical border.
By Dave Kehr