Runtime: 2 hr 15 min
MPAA Rating: R
Director: Mel Gibson
Starring: Rudy Youngblood, Raoul Trujillo, Mayra Sérbulo, Dalia Hernández, Gerardo Taracena, Rodolfo Palacios, Bernardo Ruiz Juarez, Ammel Rodrigo Mendoza, Ricardo Diaz Mendoza, Israel Contreras
One of the very best movies of the year.
Review by: SteveRhodes
Added: 8 years ago
Going into APOCALYPTO, a very violent movie set a half a millennium ago and told in Maya with English subtitles, I must admit I had at best modest expectations. Directed by Mel Gibson (THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST), the film turned out to be one of biggest surprises in years for me. As I gripped the edge of my seat from start to finish, I was completely engrossed in a tale that transports one back to a pre-civilized time, when humans attempted to deal with the horrors of nature's plagues by offering sacrifices to the gods. The movie isn't merely fascinating, it is nothing less than one of the very best movies of the year, and it contains some of the best foot chases in cinematic history.
The film starts off disarmingly with a long comedic sequence. Hunters from one Mayan tribe have killed a wild boar and are busy dividing up its body parts. It seems that one of them has been having problems procreating, causing him, as we find out later, to have to endure endless grief from his obnoxious mother-in-law. His friends have just the solution for him. All he needs to do is eat raw boar balls. After he does this and pukes, his friends start rolling in laughter. They never believed in the remedy. The whole thing was one wild practical joke. Later we see this peaceful tribe doing more practical jokes so that their relative harmlessness is driven home to us.
The tranquility of the setting is interrupted as another tribe brings a tribute and asks for passage through the forest. Looking like downtrodden refuges from a concentration camp, they slowly stream through. With death on their faces, they explain that their tribe has been "ravaged" by another tribe.
Jaguar Paw (Rudy Youngblood in an Oscar worthy performance), the story's very compelling central character, is warned by his father that fear is a contagious disease, so they will not speak again of the mysterious tribe who passed through their forest. Once back to camp, we are surrounded by the primal beauty of the lush and thick green forest. The sharp-as-a-tack cinematography is absolutely breath-taking. It's so gorgeous, as are the amazing costumes, body paint and jewelry, that the visuals alone are more than worth the price of admission.
After a night of frivolity, Jaguar Paw's tribe is awakened by savage killers. A sadistic tribe has come to gather slaves and candidates for human sacrifices to the gods for the plague and pestilence that has struck the people and the crops. Not content to kidnap the healthy adults, the evil tribe captures half of the adults and brutally beats to death the other half. The kids are left behind to fend for themselves and are likely to die without adults to hunt and take care of them. Some of the women are raped. Ever resourceful, as well as a great fighter, Jaguar Paw lowers his pregnant wife and his young son into a deep hole in order to protect them, which it does but also ends up trapping them there, too.
The slaves are tied to long poles and treated like wild animals. The bad tribe has some great villains in it. Strong and handsome, they are quite scary, and, even if Jaguar Paw and his friends are quite brave, they have little ability to maneuver or struggle once firmly tied to the poles and forced to go on a death march.
After a long and arduous journey through the dense jungle, Jaguar Paw and his fellow captives arrive at a very surreal temple. Looking like MAD MAX mixed with a Jim Jones cult, people jump up and down with wild abandon, as one person after another has his heart dug out and his head chopped off as a way to appease the angry gods.
The long and last part of the this thrilling tale concerns Jaguar Paw's attempt to return to free his trapped family before the torrential rains flood the hole and drown them.
APOCALYPTO is like nothing I have ever seen before. It moves at such an accelerated and mesmerizing pace that I was shocked when I checked my watch after what I thought was the first half hour only to find that three times that amount of time had elapsed. It's easy to forget that humans are animals too and that the world has not always been civilized. APOCALYPTO transports us to the deep, dark roots of human nature at its rawest, but it is, thankfully, a redeeming and redemptive tale of survival. It also has some great twists along the way, none better than its ending, which could become a real classic of a conclusion.
APOCALYPTO runs 2:15 but feels much shorter. The film is in Maya with English subtitles. It is rated R for "sequences of graphic violence and disturbing images" and would be acceptable for older teenagers. Given the graphic nature of the movie, especially the scene of a man's face being chewed away by a jaguar, it should more certainly be NC-17, but the MPAA blew it again, rating it R since there isn't much nudity, which is what really upsets the censors.