Movie Review: ‘War for the Planet of the Apes’ Caps A Classic Trilogy

A half a century ago, Francis Ford Coppola redefined the war film as something truly horrifying. ‘Apocalypse Now’ had its flurries of great action, but it was always clear that the journey was into the very heart of darkness. War is not fun. It is absolute hell for all those that touch it. It’s stench is one of such a pungent nature that it consumes us all in ways that reveal our best and very worst sides. 

No film since that masterpiece has illustrated the horrors that lie in war better than Matt Reeves final film in the ‘Planet of the Apes’ trilogy. A trilogy that now enters the reigns of the greatest on screen trios of all time! This is because Reeves uses this final chapter to explore the very decline of mankind itself. And the parallels to today’s political landscape are so eerie that you find it hard not to connect Caesar’s struggle to that of other oppressed races in our world today. 

In fact, the narrative deals directly with a race of individuals that are killed or imprisoned for looking different, forced into slave labor, seen as outsiders that are taking over as the dominate population of the world, and who have their homes raided in the night by soldiers that leave collateral damage. Hell, Woody Harrelson’s military leader is even forcing the apes to build a wall to keep outsiders from getting into the military base that most of the movie takes place in. By the way, Harrelson is amazing as the villainous Colonel in this movie. One of the best villains in years in fact. 

I’m sure you are beginning to see some of the connections to minorities in America, Trump’s racist border wall that he says Mexico will pay for, and the Islamic families who have been losing their innocent loved ones to raids in this never ending war on terrorism. If you add in the torture, vengeance, and slavery then you can feel the way that Reeves is channeling every horrific act of war he can without compromising his storytelling. Everything from Japanese interment camps to the way Jewish slaves were treated by the Egyptians. This film is a strong critique on our world and what has happened to our humanity. 

It’s also filled with so many unforgettable scenes that it’s hard to mention them all in one review. So, I will only mention one. There is a sequence midway through the film where something terrible has happened to Caesar and he is in a position where we don’t know if he will make it. Then a little girl comes waltzing across enemy lines to feed him and share the love the he needs to survive. The whole sequence is nearly silent outside Michael Giacchino’s hauntingly beautiful score. And it seeps into your heart without you even knowing it’s doing it.

I will not reveal much about the plot other than to say it’s less a war movie than a movie about the result of war. It’s an action picture, silent film, escape drama, war film, revenge thriller, and so much more. It’s a movie that delivers intense suspense and gut wrenching terror. There are scenes that will leave you cheering and others that will move you to tears. There are scenes that slowly burn with intense suspense and others that warm the heart in unexpected ways. Regardless of what you are coming for, this movie delivers. 

‘War for the Planet of the Apes’ is a masterful closing to one of the greatest trilogies of all time. And I hope that it is remembered come Oscar season for its flawless visual effects, gorgeous cinematography, perfect score, and Andy Serkis’s brilliant performance as Caesar. It’s the best performance so far this year and the man did it as an ape in a silly suit with dots on his face. Give this man the Oscar he deserves!

Nathan Ligon

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