I just watched “Apocalypse Now” - probably 15 years since I had seen it, and first time seeing it widescreen (albeit on a small screen). It’s an amazing film from the standpoint of cinematography, and also very powerful emotional content. It did feel rather episodic though - for example the segment with Kilgore (Robert Duvall) is quite long and memorable (“Charlie don’t surf!”) yet serves the fairly small point of getting Willard and his boat to the river. The episode with Willard and the Chef getting chased by the tiger adds to the sense of danger and paranoia but is otherwise disconnected. The famous scene with the USO show with the Playboy playmates is another example. Moreso than supporting the main plot these scenes add more to the sense of the surreal, like how a lot of these young soldiers were picked up out of their everyday American existence and dropped into this completely alien land where they’re are constantly facing sudden death from who knows who or what, but then they’re also surfing and having beach parties and stuff. Like I think the Martin Sheen voiceover describes, they tried to make the soldiers feel at home when in fact they are most certainly not at home.
One thing I’m curious about is how Vietnam veterans react to the movie. To me it comes across as anti-war, depicting the Americans as brutal and reckless and heavy-handed and great at killing people and blowing up villages, yet ultimately ineffective at accomplishing a mission. But supposedly it was also criticized for glorifying war and violence. PS I was born in 1975 so I have no first-hand memories of that era.