Starring: Gerardo Taracena, Raoul Trujillo, Dalia Hernandez, Rudy Youngblood.
Running time: 139 minutes
Directed By: Mel Gibson
Written By: Mel Gibson & Farhad Safinia
Mel Gibson has lead a somewhat controversial career. He is a talented actor no doubt about it, but his private life and his religion have spilled into his public image and he has been a mess in front of the paparazzi several times. His directing career is also marred with controversy, especially with The Passion Of The Christ, which had faithful followers leaving cinemas in disgust. It can be said that he does touch some issues that most would not dare to. With Apocalypto he has touched on a subject matter unseen before on cinema screens, and he has also shown that no matter the controversy he is very talented.
Apocalypto is a story within the Mayan culture. The Mayan's have been mentioned before in films but they have never been the soul subject. Here we see a peaceful tribe within the Mayans. Members spend their days hunting boar, setting traps and making babies, as well as mocking each other. The tribe is a peaceful community that lives in wooden huts. One day whilst out hunting, a separate tribe crosses them, stating that they are relocating. Many of their community are bloodied and seem to be desperately running. The other members, a young Mayan called Jaguar Paw (Youngblood) and his friends, warn the opposing tribe to not cross again as they don't want the trouble. Little are they aware that the following morning their peaceful tribe is disrupted by Mayan rebels, who murder, kidnap, and rape members of the tribe. These rebels search the jungle for captures that they take to the almighty leader in a Mayan City, where the women are sold as slaves and the men are sacrificed for the greater good. The Chief believes God is punishing them by plaguing their crops and the only way to repay him is to sacrifice members of their kind.
As the Mayan rebels attack, Jaguar Paw manages to escape with his pregnant wife and son, who he lowers into a deep hole with the promise that he will return for them after he has helped his fellow tribe. Unfortunately he is defeated and taken captive with the rest of his tribe and lead across the jungle to the Mayan City. Once there Jaguar Paw witness' his tribe being sacrificed but is saved when a total eclipse is said to be a sign of God. Instead of being used as sacrifices, the captives are lead out to be target practice, but Jaguar Paw manages to evade the rebels, killing the leader's son in the process. Being the target of the rebel's vengeful rage he disappears into the jungle, leading them to his parts where only he can fight back and free his family from the deep hole he left them in.
The story is intriguing. It is interesting to see a story from an angle we haven't seen before. The Mayan culture is really brought to life by Gibson, albeit I don't know how they lived and looked, but he has managed to show us a believable resemblance. They run around with little clothing, large piercings split through their noses, ear lobes, and lips and hunt for food with wooden spears and bear traps. Gibson manages to show all this using relatively unknowns in the roles, and each one of them nails their character perfectly. To be honest it wasn't like I was watching people acting like Mayans, I believed they actually were.
The film does have many violent scenes in it. Most noticeably in the final forty five minutes which is a constant adrenaline rush as we follow Jaguar Paw's run from his captives with them in hot pursuit. Spears and arrows land in torsos, but the blood isn't over the top and outrageous but subtle and believable. Also in the opening scenes we see violence, with the rebels attacking the village, but most of the graphic scenes are hinted at off camera.
Apocalypto asks many questions. It shows that genocide took place well before we existed, and shows how they would do all they can to continue their civilisation. The ending shows the Spanish Armada approaching and the Mayans ask the question of do they run to man or do they continue the way they know. They know how to fight and Gibson shows their struggle with passion and emotion.
It really is a solid film. It is highly enjoyable and shows a civilisation unknown to us. The acting is strong and the direction is brilliant. Despite at times where there were a few slow moments, at two hours twenty minutes there could have been cuts, it is still a solid film and one that I do recommend. It is nothing like I was expecting and shows many themes that we should acknowledge; civilisations destructs from within, so why fight each other? Strong film, strong message.
3.5 / 5
Next film to review: ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13