It is mid-way through the Vietnam War, and troubled US Captain (Martin Sheen), is given a special mission, to go far up river into Cambodia. Once there, he is to track down renegade Colonal Kurtz (Marlon Brando) - a man who is waging his own personal and violent war - and assassinate him.
Sheen is a sympathetic and compelling lead man, while Brando's size lends him a menace not seen in his more youthful roles. The surreal nature of this film sets it apart from others such as "Platoon" and "Full Metal Jacket" it captures an atmosphere that literally seeps out of the screen, and although lessened on television the effect is still there. The film is at its best following Sheen up river, and is slightly let down by the final meeting between him and Brando.
Despite the simple plot premise, this is a complex depiction of Conrad's novella "Heart of Darkness". Coppola excels himself with this shocking, and in many ways completely unique view of the Vietnam conflict. Even while making the film in 1979 he likened the experience to the war itself, as all forms of disaster befell the production, including Martin Sheen's heart attack.
Simultaneously compulsive and horrifying viewing visually incredible, it is accompanied by an excellent soundtrack, which veers from Wagner to The Doors. An epic in almost every way it is Grand Opera for the cinema and a must see-movie. The power of this film cannot be denied, and once seen, it is not easily forgotten.