Posted by: da_nibbler | January 10, 2009


Mel Gibson’s Apocalypto is like his last film Passion of the Christ an impressive and quite different experience with stunning visuals and no holds barred violence, but thats where the similarities between those two films end (aside from both being subtitled of course).

When I went to see this I didnt really know what to expect other than this film being about the mayan culture. The general story is about a man (Jaguar Paw) whose life is turned upside down when his village is attacked by a mayan tribe. Killing everyone the attackers dont or cant take into slavery he is one of the few survivors. He barely managed to bring his pregnant wife and little son to safety just mere seconds before he is turned into a slave. Knowing his family can only survive for a certain amount of time he must try everything to escape and get back home…

Mel Gibson seems to be huge on history and he knows his game as Braveheart and Passion have shown before. Now he delves into the Mayan culture staying true to his vision and brings this ancient culture back from the dead for everyone to see.

Just like in Passion the whole film is subtitled trying to be as authentic as possible and use the actual Mayan language (just like he has used Aramaic etc in Passion) seemingly not making it very accessible to a mainstream audience. But the use of subtitles doesn’t distract from the film, the characters or the story at all. Unlike in Passion this time around you can basically understand what is said even without reading the subtitles (should you be lazy) given the actions of the characters and their setting.

The acting is superb. Never throughout the whole film do you have the feeling you are watching actors reading lines. Everyone onscreen looks like they were truly living and breathing their characters and the culture.

The characters are perfectly drawn out and have depth. You immediately like, emphasise and feel with them after only 5 or 10 minutes. Which heightens the impact of whats happening to them throughout the film. We cant help but care and be deeply moved no matter how „alien” the surroundings feel to us. And when the protagonist first sees the more advanced tribe that wants to sacrifice him and his people he feels like he has stepped into another world as well. The true scope of the film is apparent in the scenes in the mayan temple village with hundreds of extras in extravagant costumes, makeup and jewellery.

The film is very violent. Not really a surprise given the content of savages surviving in the jungle. But it is not over the top and I always had the feeling Gibson was more going for realism than for shockvalue.

Being visually stunning as much as being very gritty the cinematography is amazing. Not just the great sceneryshots in the jungle that you would want to send your folks back home on a postcard, but also bringing across the speed, action and drama during Jaguar Paw’s journey.

This film doesnt feel like a film but like a National Geographic documentary with a great blend of action, drama and humor and engaging characters. It shows that Gibson is one of the great filmmakers of our time being able to entertain us with his amazing vision and sense of humor and bringing back civilizations and stories we have forgotten about.


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