Apocalypto (2006) – Mel Gibson

DK Canada’s The Movie Book brings me a fantastic adventure film as the next title on the What Else to Watch list following its recommendation of Aguirre, The Wrath of God. And let’s be clear, no matter what one thinks of Mel Gibson, personally, one has to recognize he does have a talent for acting and directing.

(I’m not saying he should be given the venue for it all the time, but this is a solid film!).

We are taken into the declining world of the Mayan Empire. A small, peaceful tribe, which includes Jaguar Paw (Rudy Yongblood) are attacked by a Mayan raiding party, hiding his wife and child, before he is captured, Jaguar Paw is taken into the heart of Mayan culture where he will either be a slave, or sacrificed…

But he is determined to escape and find his way home to his family.

The dialogue in the film is all Mayan (subtitled of course) which lends a degree of heightened reality to the film, and its visuals.

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I did clue in on one thing that always bothered me about the film, it doesn’t seem to matter which way Jaguar Paw is going, as a prisoner to the Mayan city or escaping from it and returning home, he’s always travelling from left to right on the screen, it’s always a progression, and never a return, and consequently plays with some of the landmarks on the journey.

Beyond that it s a thrilling adventure, and is in fact, majorly, a chase movie. Gibson handles the action beats, and the story easily, cutting back to Jaguar Paw’s pregnant wife and child in their hiding spot, where they are now trapped…

The story rockets along, filling its plus two hours running time easily, and without letting up for a minute.

The visuals are fantastic, and the look inside the declining Mayan Empire on the verge of extinction thanks to the reveal at the end of the film (no spoilers in case you don’t know your history) is as frightening as it is awe-inspiring.

The camera, much like Jaguar Paw, never seems to stop moving, and the lush greens of the jungle are incredibly vibrant as the final act of the film kicks into high gear, a wonderful contrast to the Mayan city. We’re on Jaguar Paw’s turf now, and he has hunted these woods all his life.

I remember when this one first came out, and sat in a mostly empty theater watching it (people hate subtitled movies, sigh), and loved every minute of it. It has not lost any of its storytelling power.

But don’t take my word for it, check it out tonight, or pick up a copy of DK Books’ The Movie Book, and find a new or old classic to watch tonight!

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