Sunday, April 28, 2013

988. Apocalypto (2006)

Running Time: 138 minutes
Directed By: Mel Gibson
Written By: Mel Gibson, Farhad Safinia
Main Cast: Rudy Youngblood, Dalia Hernandez, Jonathan Brewer, Mayra Serbulo, Morris Birdyellowhead
Click here to view the trailer


I was hesitant to watch "Apocalypto", because...well I don't really have an acceptable "because" - I was just skeptical, that's all. One thing that may have led to my skepticism is the lack of faith I have in Gibson as a director. Despite turning in a near masterpiece with "The Passion of the Christ", I felt as though that work was ready made to succeed and didn't really chalk the success up to Gibson's direction. With "Apocalypto", I now have no choice but to give Gibson the credit he's due.

As far as I could tell, the film is segmented, quite nicely, into four distinct pieces. We start out with the introductions and establishing the characters. In this case, the characters are members of the Mayan civilization and more specifically, in this case, a small Mayan village, where the residents know one another, respect their boundaries and are grateful for what they have. This particular Mayan community is a civilized lot, where families live and flourish and ancestry is respected. One morning, however, all of this is disrupted when the village is attacked by a band of outsiders. The outsiders kill some, capture and hogtie the rest and burn the village to the ground. With their captives, the raiders tie them together and lead them through the forests, bound to a bamboo pole. The captives have no idea where they're going and most are tied and beaten. Having just seen members of their family killed, most are also emotionally drained, not knowing where they're going or who's taking them there. It is eventually revealed that the captives are being taken to be ritually sacrificed to the God of the sun, Kukulkan. After killing two of the captives in brutal fashion, the crowd that has gathered and everyone else witness a solar eclipse and therefore, the men doing the sacrificing declare that Kukulkan is satisfied and to "dispose" of the rest of the captives. The final part deals with the escape of Jaguar Paw (Youngblood), one of the captives, as he tries to escape the band of original captors and get back to his pregnant wife and son, whom he hid in a pit before being captured.

It took a little bit before my skepticism was quenched. When the film started, several feeble attempts at comedy were made and they were those kinds of feeble attempts at comedy that, kind of, make you roll your eyes - the very unfunny kind. However, Gibson didn't waste any time and quickly put the kibosh on the comedy and started rolling the ball on an absolutely FANTASTIC movie. For me, the skeptical one, it was a film that built and built and built until I couldn't help but embrace the film that was being laid out before me. At first, as I mentioned, I wasn't crazy about it. Then, the village is attacked and I start to get a little more into it, but not too much. The mini war scene when the village is attacked was some pretty great stuff, but I still wasn't sold. Then we started walking and I began to wonder when we'd stop walking. Was the entire film going to be the leading of the captives to their destination or were we going to get there in time to see what happens and then some? That question was quickly answered though, when we did arrive at our destination and the cinematography started to pick up a notch. Immaculate sets,  thousands of extras, camera angles that squeezed every drop of beauty out of the surroundings and the blues of the painted bodies, the sacrificial lambs being led to their slaughter. But it was too soon for all of our main characters to die and if the sacrificing wasn't enough to get you "oohing" & "aahing" and gasping & groaning, you still had the whole final act to go - the escape of Jaguar Paw and to see whether or not he'd survive a band of worthy hunters. By the end, I was exhausted. Going from a skeptical viewer to a 100% hooked one is hard work, ya know?

So with all this glowing praise, I'm forced to ask myself the question: Is Mel Gibson a great director? Well, I'd have to say he is. Now, I'm as surprised as any of you to hear myself say that, because up until about an hour ago, I wouldn't give have dared to lump the terms "Mel Gibson" and "great director" into the same sentence. But, if you look at his directing career (with the exception being "The Man Without a Face"), you see some very passionately done stories. Gibson is one who gets an idea in his head and either goes whole hog with it or doesn't do it at all. I mean, Gibson (once an A-list Hollywood actor), with his last two pictures, has broken the cardinal rule of a Hollywood filmmaker and that is: never make a film with subtitles. Gibson could've just as easily had his actors speaking English, in this and "The Passion", but he went whole hog, used Hebrew and Mayan dialects and did it right, lest he didn't do it at all. I applaud that. All I know is this, if it was announced tomorrow that Gibson had announced his next big directing gig, I'd be excited to hear the details, see the trailer and eventually see the movie. He has officially crossed that threshold of directors, where I'm literally looking forward to his next project and speaking of his projects, as you can tell, they're few and far between. I'd call that another credit to his abilities, as he doesn't simply grasp at anything that's thrown at him, but rather waits for something that he wants to do, that he feels passionate enough about to direct. Gibson is one who obviously directs just as much with his heart, as he does with his mind.

RATING: 10/10  Screw it, I'm going all the way. This was a great, great movie. Great action, beautiful cinematography, great direction, perfectly acceptable acting and a fantastic story...this is what going to the movies is all about.


April 28, 2013  9:45pm


  1. Sorry Andrew, after agreeing so much with you about Gladiator, I'm afraid I will disagree about this one. I could almost cut and paste my feelings from both Gladiator, and Crowe to Apocalypto/Gibson. In fact I find Gibson a (seemingly) more unpleasant person.
    One thing I couln't get out of my mind whilst watching this was the gross Historical distortions in 'Braveheart' - a story/period i know quite well.. and thinking there was probably the same in this.
    No, I'm afraid a big miss on this one for me.

    1. Oh well, another harm, no foul. I really liked this one and it was everything I'd want from an action/adventure movie, a genre I normally don't go for. I haven't seen "Braveheart" in years and I've only seen it twice. Once I hated it, once I really liked it, so we'll see how I feel when I get to it...Thanks Ray.


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