Earlier this week, the New York Times published an appreciation of Francis Ford Coppola as part of its fall film preview. The writer, A.O. Scott, notes that much of Coppola's career has been overshadowed by his early successes, namely the first two "Godfather" films but also "The Conversation" and the spectacle that is "Apocalypse Now."
Scott points to some excellent films that Coppola directed in the 1980s, which may not be in the same league as the aforementioned classics but which are worthy of mention nonetheless. Perhaps my favorite is the 1987 film "Gardens of Stone", which centers on the soldiers assigned to the honor guard at Arlington National Cemetery during the Vietnam War. The film features strong performances from James Caan, James Earl Jones and D.B. Sweeney. Caan is a drill sergeant and Vietnam veteran who is embittered by the war, and Sweeney is the idealistic young soldier he takes under his wing. It's hard to think of another film that so deftly portrays the camaraderie that soldiers share and that leads them to lay down their lives for one another, no matter what they think of the war they've been sent to fight.
It is, in other words, the perfect film for our times.