Newest Review: ... and heads on top of them. The hero of the film is the athletic 'Jaguar Paw' (Rudy Youngblood), who has just enough time to lower his... more
The bloody end of a civilization so not suitable for kids then! ( crown)
Member Name: thedevilinme
Date: 16/10/11, updated on 27/10/11 (54 review reads)
Advantages: Pacy action adventure
Certificate - 18
Director - Mel Gibson
Run Time - 19 minutes
Genre - Action/Adventure
Country - USA (2006)
There's no doubt Mel Gibson is one of the iconic movie stars of our time, the perfect screen idol with those piercing blue eyes, devilish smile and amiable Aussie twang. What else would you do but acting if you look like that at 18! You don't see many people like him do normal jobs. But those looks started to go quickly after his 40th birthday and the character roles just didn't suit him, picking exactly the right moment to step to the other side of the camera. He did not want to be another Michael Caine doing those rather sad cameo roles as the avuncular shoulder to cry on. He proved he could direct with his well deserved Oscar for the brilliant Braveheart, and has again delivered with Apocalypto, although The Academy too scared to even mention his name with a nomination by the time of the films release, 2006 the peak of Mel Gibson's personal problems, this garnered with some peripheral technical Oscars instead to avoid him coming on stage to accept the golden statue one presumes. You can't go around wishing terrible things on the Jews in Hollywood, Mel!
Rudy Youngblood ... Jaguar Paw
Dalia Hernández ... Seven
Jonathan Brewer ... Blunted
Morris Birdyellowhead ... Flint Sky
Carlos Emilio Báez ... Turtles Run
Amilcar Ramírez ... Curl Nose
Israel Contreras ... Smoke Frog
Israel Ríos ... Cocoa Leaf
Raoul Trujillo ... Zero Wolf
Gerardo Taracena ... Middle Eye
A 16th century Mayan village is raided by a marauding tribe, the weak brutally slain where they stand and the young and healthier taken prisoner, only a handful of kids left in the burning village to fend for themselves. The Mayan kingdom is facing decline and the rulers have decreed that the key to prosperity is to build yet more temples and offer human sacrifices so loyal tribes sent out to find the slaves to build the temples and be sacrifices to lose their hearts and heads on top of them.
The hero of the film is the athletic 'Jaguar Paw' (Rudy Youngblood), who has just enough time to lower his pregnant wife Seven (Dalia Hernández) and son Turtle Dove (Carlos Emilio Báez) into a cave for some sort of safety before he, too, is captured. The deputy of the raiders, Middle Eye (Gerardo Taracena), is a nasty piece of work and treats his prisoners sadistically, no mercy, even questioning elder leader Zero Wolf (Raoul Trujillo) with his petulance.
As their trek drags on through the jungle some will fall, bad omens aplenty for the hunted and hunter, a young girl riddled with disease warning of impending doom to come on the trail. As the crowd grows the temples wall drawings paint their fete and only Jaguar Paw's will to get back to his wife and child stands between him and certain death. If he is a chosen son then something miraculous needs to happen soon for him and his tribe to see another sunrise as they ascend the pyramid above the God-fearing baying crowds to the sacred sacrificial stone.
Fear not! With its authentic Mayan dialogue, unknown cast and sweeping dramatic locations and soundtrack, this is thankfully not that type of arty movie it seems, very much The Passion of the Christ meets Braveheart with a lot of Predator thrown in, a traditional and non pretentious action/adventure movie at heart. I think it's fair to say that the cast were certainly not the selling point and so the film rose or fell on Gibson's direction and input. Admittedly it is very similar in style to Braveheart in that the hero's destiny is forced upon him and his journey back to his loved one the drama. But Mel nailed that so well the first time then why not try again by replacing the savage Scott's with the even more savage Mayans. Be warned, this is a gory and violent film and not for the fainthearted.
With director Gibson weaving in a loose mystical fable to lighten it up further to claw back the mainstream multiplex crowd, the storyline is suitably tightened and frantic, producing some exciting action sequences that work well around the suggested supernatural element, if a little Hollywood at times, these Mayan warrior chaps extremely spear and arrow proof, fatal hemorrhaging and internal injuries easily fixed up with bark, leaves and a couple of ants! That adherence to the movie jungle code produces one or two unexpected and humorous moments, none more so than when Jaguar Paw taunts his pursuers with his chants from beneath the mighty waterfall: "I am Jaguar Paw, son of Flint Sky. My Father hunted this forest before me. I am a hunter. This is my forest. And my sons will hunt it with their sons after I am gone!!!! He then proceeds to fall flat on his face in quicksand on that very land.
As I said, as with Gibson's later movies the blood and guts gush here, surprisingly visceral at times. But that's what people were like back then when religion ruled the way and science was just but an idea. If the crops were failing due to global warming then 400 heads had to be chopped off until it stopped. It's not gratuitous gore as it signposts the movies mythical narrative and tries to emphasizes how mindless the sacrifices were back then, the Mayans kings believed to have decapitated over 20,000 in the 16th century, presumably to make sure the sun came up the next day.
Some have critiqued Gibson's religious fervor in his films and the way he attacks other faiths to promote his own one of Catholicism as the most righteous one. But all he is really doing is emphasizing how fear and violence are at the heart of many religions at their conception, a great recruiting agent by their creators, that of man. The Jews were really not happy with the Passion of the Christ and the Mexicans less than impressed with the Mayan betrayal here, the suggestion the Mayans were this violent somewhat insulting echoed the Mexican parliament. History is somewhere in-between on that score but the current drug war that claims thousands of lives a year in Mexico would suggest a bloodlust in their genes.
The punters loved it, the $40 million budget turning an impressive $120 million gross around the world. Gibson can direct a feature film and bringing no pretentious here he draws a big audience, a man of the people. It really is an old fashioned action-drama with a refreshing lack of CGI dependency and some enjoyable old fashioned scenes that feel like they have been extracted from classics like Jason and the Argonauts and Ben Hur. Gibson really has the feel for that 1950s sprawling epic and unleashes that here with gusto, some hammy B-Movie horror thrown in to secure that 18 certificate. But the key to the appeal here is the way he builds the audience up to hate the oppressors and so we all fall in behind Jaguar Paw and his will to escape their clutches and get back to his loved ones, the audience soon part of that frantic pursuit through the jungle. Gibson makes you want to care about some loin cloth wearing savages talking in a very funny language, no mean feat.
The Times - "Any Gibson-haters hoping to see the heart ripped out of his success may well find themselves disappointed"
The Seattle Times -"Ignore Apocalypto's symbolic hubbub and instead view it for Gibson's perverse sense of entertainment. His passionate spectacle of human destruction and doom packs a terrific visceral punch".
The Sun - "has learned how to tell a tale, and to raise a pulse in the telling. You have to admire that basic gift, uncommon as it is in Hollywood these days, though equally you have to ask what obsessions goad it on"
The Cape Times - "I won't say Gibson is a rebel who thinks outside the box, as was witnessed by "Passion of the Christ," but the man can direct an excellent visually spectacular action thriller"
Imdb.com - 7.8/10 (102,768 votes)
Metacritic.com - 68% critic's approval (70% user reviews)
Rottentomatos.com - 64% critics approval (79% user reviews)
Radio Times Film Year Book - 4/5
Leonardo Maltin's Film Year Book - 4.5/5
Summary: Above average action flick!