Francis Ford Coppola’s masterpiece, Apocalypse Now is that of a classified mission regarding a U.S. Army Captain instructed to capture and kill a U.S. Special Forces Colonel that apparently went insane and now commands his own indigenous troops inside neutral Cambodia during the Vietnam War. One could say that the subplot of the film is about an entire generation projected from the repercussions of such a war. The film is a character study of how absolute power leads to acts of madness because there are no social mores to restrict the behavior of normally law-abiding citizens in the jungles of Vietnam. The wages of war make for potential madness within everyone. In the wrong circumstances human fallibility can lead to unthinkable atrocities. This account becomes a realization in the narrative of Apocalypse Now and studies the many aspects of U.S. Imperialism during the Vietnam War. Whether it’s the Vietnam War or imperialism, the characters have the sense that they can do whatever they want in a foreign land. There are no rules of society or law and the underlying question is, “what are we really doing here?” Instead, Apocalypse Now deals more directly with a war that is hidden, lurking underneath the image of the white man’s burden. Both war and imperialism are morally questionable. Apocalypse Now serves as a commentary on the way a society accepts the justification of war and the way we (the viewer) are lead to perceive various nations and ideologies. In the film, the American solders are perceived to be superior and more civilized but in actuality their acts of violence demonstrate that of barbarians when killing people just for surfing. The Americans attack the Vietnamese villages and play mind games with them by marking the dead with cards. They are ready to kill every single “savage” man, woman, and child or even animal that stands in their way. Apocalypse Now continually spotlights the ironies that accompanied the Vietnam War in particular and western imperialism in general. The film is not overtly antiwar, but it takes pains to reveal the atrocities of a war fought by the United States in the name of democracy and freedom. In the air strike on the local village, and bridge scenes, Coppola clearly depicts the death and destruction that result directly from U.S. involvement. Instead of helping innocent civilians; American troops kill them. They are strangers in a strange land, yet they act as if they own it, staking out territory and firing without provocation. This is U.S. Imperialism at its best. The film characterizes Willard’s mission as the epitome of hypocrisy: in the midst of scores of senseless killings, the U.S. military is wasting energy and lives on killing one of its highest-ranking military officials. While Kurtz may well have gone insane, it’s not clear why killing him is a priority when U.S. troops and Vietnamese civilians are dying. Moreover, since the military seems to encourage assassination in war, as evidenced by Willard’s assignment, we may question why Kurtz is demonized for killing two people who may have been working against the United States. Willard points out a number of other hypocrisies in his narration. For instance, after killing the Vietnamese peasant in the sampan, he reflects, “We’d cut them in half with a machine gun and give them a Band-Aid. It was a lie.” When Willard kills the dying woman on the boat, the others’ perception of him changes, yet Clean is not criticized for shooting preemptively and killing an entire family—because he was following protocol. The film is a metaphor for a journey into the self and shows how the self, in the face of war, darkens beyond recognition. As they move upriver, Willard and the PBR crew become more agitated and separated from reality. Each man experiences his own kind of mental breakdown. Chef enters the jungle, has a run-in with a tiger, and is no longer the same—his temper becomes shorter, and he withdraws further into drugs. Lance turns to drugs too, but he also camouflages his face, signaling a changed self . When Clean is killed, Chief breaks down emotionally and becomes a changed man. Willard, already broken from his first tour in Vietnam, becomes obsessed with his target. What originally is a mysterious, exciting voyage morphs into a descent into hell, and the characters respond by hardening themselves, withdrawing, and transforming. The cinematography reflects their impending madness by cloaking the journey in darkness and fog, creating an increasingly hallucinatory atmosphere. Perhaps the biggest absurdity appears when Willard and the troops discover a military supply post where a USO show is about to take place. In showing the Playmates in Vietnam, the film highlights the contrasts between American and Vietnamese values. Frenzied U.S. soldiers drool over the women they can’t have as Vietnamese villagers look on in disbelief. The omnipresent darkness in the film emphasizes the absence of civilization. Much of the film is shrouded in shadow, and it gets progressively darker as the soldiers venture further into the jungle. The cinematography transforms the river from a broad, gleaming waterway to a dark, narrow stream overpowered by dense vegetation. The scene of the arrow attack is bathed in blinding fog, while the bridge scene is bathed in darkness, lit only by flares and what appears to be a searchlight. The erratic light adds to the sense of confusion and conveys the idea that the crew is now totally beyond the comforting glow of civilization. The dark/light contrast is heightened when Willard reaches Kurtz’s compound. Kurtz’s face is almost always hidden in shadow; only rarely is it seen in full, and it is never filmed in daylight. This could almost symbolize the entire face of Imperialistic representation. Projected fro the war. The climax of the film heightens the contrast to an extreme, as Willard slaughters Kurtz in a scene backlit so that the figures are silhouettes. While the action takes place in darkness, the presence of light suggests a way out of madness. An escape. Not just from this jungle, but ultimately from, madness. The symbolic overtone of the films thematic meaning ends and ultimately suggests that U.S. Imperialism is defeated during the Vietnam War.