August 13, 2001 12:00 PM

Martin Sheen, Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall, Frederic Forrest, Albert Hall

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This summer’s best new movie is 22 years old: Apocalypse Now Redux, director Francis Ford Coppola’s brilliantly re-edited version of Apocalypse Now, his lush fever dream about a group of American soldiers heading upriver on an assassination mission during the Vietnam War. The new edition adds 49 minutes of unused footage, including soldiers surfing during a bombing raid, a monologue by Brando’s crazed Colonel Kurtz, a sexual rendezvous between Playboy bunnies and G.I.s, and an extraordinary sequence in which Captain Willard (Sheen) and his men come upon a ghostly plantation still occupied by French owners. (Willard sleeps with a woman there, played by Aurore Clement.)

With its plot partially lifted from Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, Apocalypse is a journey into chaos. It crawls inside you and won’t let go. This antiwar movie was already a masterpiece in 1979; now it’s more of one. (R)

Bottom Line: Bigger, and even better

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