Posted on 12/05/06 05:24 PM
Mel Gibson is one of the more controversial figures in the news lately and his newest movie Apocalypto isn?t likely to change that. The Aussie director?s latest film is a bloody invigorating adventure the quality and intensity of which hasn?t been seen since John McClane was hanging people with chains in the eighties.
The movies story revolves around Jaguar Paw (Rudy Youngblood) a member of an indigenous tribe approximately 500 years ago. He senses danger when a group of strangers passes through his tribe?s territory. A fear that is dismissed by the other villagers his father, the tribe?s leader, especially. In the middle of the night though, a group of Mayans ransack his village killing many of the villagers and taking the rest captive except for the children who they leave behind.
During the pillaging Jaguar Paw?s father is killed as he dies he tells is son ?You can not go through life with fear.? A term that takes on new meaning to Jaguar Paw as he is imprisoned, almost sacrificed, escapes his captors, faces a hunting party of about ten men by himself, is almost attacked by a panther, sinks half way in quick sand, is speared more than once, and jumps a several hundred foot water fall. Even though deity is never mentioned specifically as protecting Jaguar Paw there is a sense that a greater power has chosen him to rebirth his tribe?s legacy as demonstrated both literally through a prophecy and figuratively through a birth metaphor.
All the actors do serviceable jobs but much like Gibson?s previous work (The Passion, Braveheart, and Hamlet) this is really the man behind the cameras show. As weird as he is, few directors know how to make a unique and intriguing film like Gibson. He captures in the beginning a sense of communal living, the feeling of a culture?s decadence in the middle act, and the beauty of the rain-forest and its animals in the third act which is one of the best chase scenes ever. Wherever Apocalypto takes you whether it?s a Mayan sacrificing ceremony, a tribal village, or a race for survival, Gibson throws the audience right in the middle of the action creating a film that is realistic, brutal, and captivating.
Detractors much like they did with the Passion will view the violence in Apocalypto as excessive and distasteful. Whereas its supporters will probably note that the violence reflects the culture of the period. They?re both kind of right. It is true the tribal cultures of South America were considerably more violent than most modern societies. At the same time though, Apocalypto does draw attention to the more gruesome elements of Mayan society complete with close-ups on freshly harvested organs. While it?s hard to condone Apocalypto?s violence from a moral stance, there?s no arguing that Gibson has made a powerful film that?s his own. Apocalypto?s definitely not for the young or squeamish but if you can stomach the violence; Apocalypto is an amazing can?t miss film experience.