“Apocalypse Now” Movie Analysis: Dehumanization of Vietnam Soldiers by Americans

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Vietnam was a country that had a lot of problems within it. The South was at war with the North. The North was at war for their independence and at the same time, tried to kick out the Americans from the south. Since the Americans were big-time partners with the south, they were better suited for war. The movie Apocalypse Now shows a glimpse of what happened in the Vietnam war. The Americans dehumanize the Vietnam soldiers through their imperial warfare. It is seen through their excessive fire power used on the Vietnamese farmers, through if they are feeling threatened, they will shoot and finally, their lack of values leading to their rigorous actions.

Just like any other war, the Americans had a huge advantage with their excessive firepower. In Apocalypse now, around the 36-minute mark, The Lieutenant General Kilgore, storms a Vietnam beach with many weapons and explosives to leave no survivors and says: “I love the smell of Napalm in the morning”. (Coppola). This scene was a real shocker to see how ruthless the Americans were. The farmer's weapons were nothing compared to the Americans firepower, but they still stood there to defend their rice fields and the little land they had. This scene represents many real-life events that happened during the war in Vietnam. Most soldiers from the US had tanks, snipers, planes, helicopters and millions of dollars’ worth of explosions.

Over the span of 9 years, they’d drop over 260 million cluster bombs (Editors). These actions are signs of them not caring about who is down below. They had the military advantage and they weren’t afraid to show it. They could take any Vietnamese and make them feel puny in compared to how their army had weapons, explosive and gear to survive in a war. Also, during the whole movie they aren’t just attacking other militaries. Towards one hour and forty minutes in, Captain Benjamin faces a similar situation, except now they are getting attacked by natives using bow and arrows (Coppola). Now that it’s daytime and they can see where they are getting attacked from. The crew still shoots recklessly onto the villagers without caring. At the same time, Captain Benjamin screams : “Stop firing, they’re just little sticks, they’re just trying to scare us.” (Coppola). After screaming at his crew to stop, no one tries to listen to their captain. All they know is that the enemy have attacked and now they must die for that. They don’t care if the enemy have weapons or twigs, they are still categorized as enemies and will feel the Americans wrath.

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During the movie, you quickly learn that when the Americans are facing a threat, they don’t hesitate to open fire. This happens many times all around the movie but there two memorable moments where they fired all of what they had. After an hour and a half of watching, you find Captain Benjamin with his crew at Do Lung Bridge. They walk around trying to find who is order but only find soldiers shooting blindly into the tree line, the captain addresses the soldier that looks intoxicated with “What are you shooting at soldier” and gets responded with “What the f*ck do you think I’m shooting at?” (Coppola). With the answer he gave, his eyes looked like he didn’t sleep in weeks or if he was on drugs. It’s the middle of the night and these soldiers are hearing something moving into the forest and don’t hesitate to open fire. It could be anything, but they don’t take the time to look or to try to figure out what is out there.

For theses soldiers, anything that is out of these walls is considered enemy and will be shot at. Anything beyond those walls that the Americans are taking cover behind, have close to no importance whatsoever. They had no pity for who the enemy was, but some still had a little heart left from this awful war. At one point in the movie, Captain Benjamin arrives at an outpost called the Do Lung Bridge, that contains a bridge that constantly gets destroyed every day. Here, Lance B Johnson walks ashore with the captain to find the man in charge of this outpost. While Captain Benjamin is looking for the general, Lance brings his puppy along with him to keep an eye out on the Captain. In this scene you see him trying to keep the puppy warm underneath his shirt and slightly petting the animal on the head (Coppola). Goes to show here that he offers affection and cover to a small innocent puppy, but when it comes to be faced to face with a Vietnamese farmer, he would gun them down without hesitation. They put the life of puppies and animals before the life of the Vietnamese civilians trying to defend their homes. As soon as the Americans feel a threat, they instantly blow everything they can up.

Lastly, most U.S soldiers never really showed any key values that make them have pity for others during the war. During the war, many soldiers talked about getting high, surfing and looking at their favorite playboy magazines. At one point they are on their way for war on the beach in the first 40minutes in the movie, and all that the general and lance are talking about surfing. Which is not a bad thing but might be a bad time. Theses soldiers are going into war and might lose their lives and are about to take lives as well. As the Americans are about to storm the first beach in the movie, General Kilgore says “ You can’t ride the nose on those things...” (Coppola), this quote isn’t very powerful but it shows that meanwhile the Americans are fighting for their perfect beach to surf on, the Vietnamese are trying to fight for their homes, families and their life. There’s a big difference in values that show again that the Americans had no pity for those who kept them from those key values. Also, around the same part in the movie, they again, look at the Vietnamese like if they were of no worth. Almost like if they we’re props in a movie.

When Benjamin and his crew await their helicopters to start their mission. They come across a film crew that are trying to get a good shot of the village burning. At one point one of the crew man yells out “Just go through like your fighting, don’t look at the camera” (Coppola). At this point, the village is up in flames, there’s helicopters flying all over the place and the American soldiers are taking everything they need like supplies and shelter. Comes to show that the film crew don’t care what is going on to this village nor the dead Vietnamese people, they are props to their movie.

To conclude, through the movie Apocalypse Now, clearly demonstrates how the Americans dehumanize the Vietnamese farmers/soldiers through their Imperial warfare. Their use of excessive firepower has always been a key factor to their dehumanization. The Americans we’re excessive on their use of firepower because they mostly had the budget for it and, it would insert fear into the Vietnamese soldiers fighting back. Also, during the war, if an American soldier would feel threat in any situation, never would they hesitate to open fire. Most soldiers in the American army open fire even before looking where to shoot. And finally, their lack in values make the Americans war machines with no pity whatsoever for anything around them except themselves. The Americans are a huge powerhouse when it comes to warfare, they have the upper hand in any battle because that they dehumanize anything they fight against.

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“Apocalypse Now” Movie Analysis: Dehumanization of Vietnam Soldiers by Americans. [online]. Available at: <https://writingbros.com/essay-examples/dehumanization-of-vietnam-soldiers/> [Accessed 14 Jul. 2024].
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