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Directed by: Mel Gibson
Cast: Rudy Youngblood, Raoul Trukillo, Gerardo Taracena, Morris Birdyellowhead, Ricardo Díaz Mendoza
Language: Yucatec Mayan
Apocalypto is a tale of survival in which a hunter rediscovers himself for the sake of his and his family’s survival by overcoming the fear of death. Set in places like Gautemala around the year 1511, this Mayan and Mesoamerican epic action-chase adventure movie is stunning, honest and brutally violent. Don’t watch it with family or with kids- the violence and blood is not for fainthearted.
Jaguar Paw (Rudy Youngblood) is an endearing Mesoamerican tribesman who proudly hunts the forest with his friends. He is the son of the head of village chief and both hunt together for the village. He has a cute little son and a wife who is pregnant. The initial scenes tell us that there is not much hierarchy and all the village folks live together in harmony. All of a sudden they are raided by some hunters, tied up and taken away. They take all the men and the women leaving the children behind to die. On the way they come across other villagers who were also similarly raided and realize it is not some random incident but a methodical conquest of nearby villages. They reach the city where it is revealed that they were brought there only as human sacrifice. From here on, how Jaguar Paw escapes and saves himself and his family forms the rest of the plot.
Mel Gibson is brilliant in directing this epic- he has tried to be as authentic to the Mayan culture as possible. From the language to the hunting and then eating of raw meat of a Tapir, this movie scales from being riveting to gross. The entire movie is shot in the jungles and the cinematography is at its finest. The brilliance is in details which are in abundance. A Lot of work has gone into the details like the type of cloth they wear to the architecture to the tools they use to hunt. The pyramids from where the Mayans used to perform human sacrifice were models created and not CGI.
Cinematography is at its best in the movie. Apocalypto was shot in real jungles with real sized sets and real animals which makes the movie one of a kind. The scenes where Jaguar stands in front of waterfall and then chased by hunters in a yellow field are one of the best examples of great cinematography by Dean Semler. The fact that Mel has used unknown actors and a language which is no longer spoken works and makes the movie believable.
The movie also in part solves the mystery of how a civilization so advanced for the time would go extinct. When death becomes a source of entertainment for the common folks you know doomsday is near. Mayan, though advanced in science were behind because of superstitions. Their thirst for blood and blind faith in deities was their undoing.
It is not your regular action movie and it is not for everyone. Also its not a family movie for those lazy Sunday afternoons . It’s a remarkable cinematic journey through the dense and dangerous green jungles of Mesoamerica beautifully depicting the flight or fight response when exposed to danger.
A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself from within