Kurtz vs Kilgore

Kurtz vs Kilgore


Marlon Brando publicity for One-Eyed Jacks.png

American actor Marlon Brando in a publicity photo for the film One-Eyed Jacks (1961).

The Duality of Darkness and Light: Kurtz and Kilgore in “Apocalypse Now”


“Apocalypse Now,” directed by Francis Ford Coppola, is a classic film that explores the harrowing and chaotic nature of the Vietnam War. At the heart of this narrative are two iconic characters, Lieutenant Colonel Bill Kilgore and Colonel Walter E. Kurtz. Their depictions provide the audience with contrasting perspectives on the notion of acceptable and unacceptable evils. This essay delves into the contrasting characters of Kurtz and Kilgore, exploring their representations as embodiments of yin and yang in the context of the film.

Lieutenant Colonel Bill Kilgore: The Acceptable Evil

Lieutenant Colonel Bill Kilgore, played by Robert Duvall, is a paradoxical figure who juxtaposes his love for the serene aspects of life, such as surfing and music, with his ruthless and violent approach to war. His infamous line, “I love the smell of napalm in the morning,” vividly illustrates this paradox. He embodies what might be considered “acceptable evil” within the framework of the film. His actions, though violent and destructive, fall within the sanctioned bounds of war. Kilgore’s behavior is driven by orders and rules of engagement set by higher authorities, and his acts of violence are undertaken under the flag of war, seemingly absolving them of personal malice and placing them within the limits of acceptable conduct during warfare.

Colonel Walter E. Kurtz: The Unacceptable but Anti-Evil

Contrasting with Kilgore is Colonel Walter E. Kurtz, portrayed by Marlon Brando. Kurtz, once a decorated officer, has become a renegade living deep within enemy territory. He operates outside the conventional bounds of warfare and military hierarchy, creating his own morality within the heart of darkness. Despite being tagged as a madman, Kurtz despises the awful methods of the US military. Moreover, destroying villages. In addition, killing children. As a result, Kurtz feels sick from the ‘Kilgore method’. Kurtz mentions his hatred of napalm. Lastly, the very element that Kilgore says “he loves the smell of…”

Two opposites. In many ways this movie has shades that remind a viewer of the Denzel Washington film, ‘Flight’.

Kurtz vs Kilgore


Apocalypse Now – Wikipedia

Apocalypse Now – Wikipedia