Tuesday, April 8, 2014

APOCALYPSE NOW (2) vs. 84 CHARLIE MOPIC (7)

 
VS.
 
 


CHARACTERS
“Apocalypse Now” has some strong characters. Two are in the top ten Vietnam War movie characters – Willard and Kurtz. Willard is the burned out assassin who is questioning his avocation. Kurtz is the Pattonesque commander who is obsessed with surfing. Kurtz is the classic scene-stealer and Willard is the rock that the story buffets. The crew of the patrol boat are distinct characters and likeable, but none grab your attention. On the other end are Kurtz and the photojournalist. Kurtz could have been a mesmerizing figure, but Marlon Brando’s lethargic performance drains the character. The same happens with Dennis Hopper’s photojournalist as the actor plays him as the opposite of lethargic. C

“84 Charlie MoPic” is a heterogeneous small unit movie. It has only seven characters with speaking roles. Each character is given a distinct personality and there is little stereotyping. The strongest characters are OD and Easy. OD is the tough as nails sergeant who cares deeply (in an alpha male way) for his men and is very averse to strangers messing with his unit dynamics. Easy is the humorous radio operator who is short not only in time left but in his tether. It is noteworthy that the LT is honest about his promotion quest and starts out incompetent and ends up growing into leadership. The others all have their moments in a movie that is intimate. A

FIRST QUARTER SCORE

Apocalypse Now = 7
84 Charlie MoPic = 9


SOLDIER BEHAVIOR

“Apocalypse Now” is not meant to be a realistic portrayal of soldier behavior. Bizarre would be the best way to describe much of the behavior. Willard seems to behave as an operative would and the crew of the boat are typical of young Americans thrust into a war they do not understand. However, everyone they run into is not typical. Anyone familiar with the USO shows knows that the soldiers did not riot when they saw a sexy woman. At no time in the war did American soldiers toting suitcases wade out to a patrol boat (heading deeper into dangerous territory) to escape from their post. Oh, and no soldiers surfed deep in VC territory. I’ll give it a default C because it is supposed to be bizarre. C

“84 Charlie MoPic” is one of the best movies when it comes to soldier behavior. The dialogue is natural and is not filled with slang the screenwriter found in a Vietnam Soldier’s Dictionary. The viewer is on a long range patrol with the squad and we see and hear a realistic depiction of that kind of mission. The bonding of the men is true to the situation. OD and Cracker are best friends even though they are of different races. Each character represents an archetype well. The only false note is ODs belligerence toward the LT. A

HALF TIME SCORE

Apocalypse Now = 14
84 Charlie MoPic = 18


WEAPONS AND TACTICS

“Apocalypse Now” is unique in centering the movie on a PBR. The armament displayed is accurate for a patrol boat in Vietnam. The crew uses the twin Browning .50 calibers (Lance) as well as the shielded .50 cal (Chef). There was also a mounted M60 that Mr. Clean is firing when he is killed. In the ville assault, the Hueys (belonging to the Philippine Army) are armed appropriately. The movie does a good job of depicting the variety of weapons available on Hueys. We see the M-6E3 weapons system, a mini-gun, the M3 Aerial Rocket Artillery, among others. The infantry are predominately armed with M-16s, but the curved clips should not have been so prevalent. There is one notable use of the M-79 grenade launcher by The Roach to silence the gook in the wire. As far as tactics, it’s not that kind of movie. The ville assault is ramped up on steroids. A napalm strike would have been called in to silence the incoming fire on the surfers, but it would not have been F-5s. (Obviously the Pentagon did not provide appropriate air craft for the film.) B

“84 Charlie MoPic” was written by a Vietnam veteran, but I could not find out anything about his experiences. The weaponry is fine. Cracker carries a shot gun and a sniper rifle. Hammer has the “pig”. Pretty Boy has a M-79. The rest are armed with M-16s. The movie is tactically sound. The squad is dropped off by chopper and then hump through the boonies. Their noise discipline is wanting, but the movie is dialogue driven so it’s understandable. They discover a NVA base camp and call in artillery. They set up their own booby traps for the egress. They rush a group of VC blocking their path after discussing the options. This makes sense. B

THIRD QUARTER SCORE

Apocalypse Now = 22
84 Charlie MoPic = 25


ACCURACY

Francis Ford Coppola once claimed his movie was a realistic view of the war. He could not have been serious. Although clearly fictional, very little that happens in the movie could actually have happened in the Nam. The central premise of a rogue colonel with his own private army is not even loosely based on anyone. The most inaccurate scene is the bridge sequence. The panicked Americans trying to escape and the whole premise of the bridge being destroyed and rebuilt each day is ludicrous. C

“84 Charlie MoPic” is not based on an actual LRRP mission, but it does adhere to a typical mission. The goal of locating an enemy base camp fits one of the roles assigned to these patrols. Having the veteran sergeant take charge instead of the new LT is realistic. The sniper incident fits enemy sniper tactics. The decision to call in a fire mission and then diddy mao is accurate. B

FINAL SCORE

Apocalypse Now = 30
84 Charlie MoPic = 33


ANALYSIS

I am a big fan of “Apocalypse Now”. It is a flawed masterpiece and a great movie in spite of its flaws. With that said, it is not a great Vietnam War movie. It is Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness” placed in a Vietnam setting. The surrealistic approach used by Coppola in several scenes makes for mesmerizing viewing, but pulls it further away from reality. “84 Charlie MoPic” could not be more different. It is amazingly good for such a low budget film and the no name actors are much better than anyone could have expected. The movie feels right and the POV style really works well. You feel like you are on the mission and care about the men more than your typical “who will survive?” film. This result will appear to be a huge upset, but not to those who have seen this obscure gem of a movie.

2 comments:

  1. Depending on the type of movie, having "no-name actors" can sometimes be an asset. The audience can pay attention to the story, and accept the actors as the characters, without the distractions of, "I saw on E! that he got arrested for DUI last week," "I read in People that she's getting a divorce," "His contract guarantees him a percentage of the profits," and so on.

    When 84 Charlie MoPic first came out, I didn't know what the title meant. Seeing it, I realized it was the military occupational specialty number for the camera man. As an Army veteran, I should have recognized it as an MOS code number, like "95 Bravo," "11 Charlie," "42 Echo," etc. Somehow, I didn't make the connection. Duh.

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  2. I agree about the no name actors. It is amazing how good these guys are. Especially since the movie is so personal and reliant on facial reactions.

    I think the title maybe has kept the movie from being more well known.

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