2006 - United States - 139 minutes
Writers - Mel Gibson and Farhad Safinia
Director - Mel Gibson
Internet Movie Database User Rating - 7.8/10 - Link to IMDB
My Rating - 4 of 5 Stars

I didn't think I was going to like Apocalypto but instead of finding a film filled with senseless blood and gore, I found it to be an enthralling character study of an intelligent and courageous young man with a single thought and quest - to reunite with and save the lives of his family.

Mel Gibson gets a lot of bad press, and he does appear to be somewhat of a kook who seems to be getting worse and worse as the years progress, but he certainly is good at creating films that appeal to one's heartstrings and sense of right and wrong.  Just think - either through his acting talent, his directing talent, or both - he has given us Tim, Gallipoli, The Year of Living Dangerously, The Bounty, The River, Hamlet, The Man Without a Face, Braveheart, Ransom, The Patriot, We Were Soldiers, The Passion of the Christ, and now Apocalypto.

Keep in mind that Apocalypto is a work of fiction - highly implausible and fanciful fiction at that. As far as I know, it never professed to be a documentary about the lives of Central American natives. It is a character driven action film, and a very good one at that. Yes there is blood and gore but no more than is seen in any action film now-a-days. Obviously, this film is not everyone's cup of tea, but for me, it was two hours and twenty minutes of solid, edge-of-seat "mindless" entertainment.

In the film, Jaguar Paw is the son of a respected village elder whom we assume is destined to, someday, be the leader of the village. He enjoys hunting and joking with the other young men of the village and is singularly devoted to his wife and son and is blessed with another child on the way. The lives of the entire village are torn asunder when they are attacked by a warrior tribe. Many are murdered outright and the rest are taken captive. During the fray, Jaguar Paw is able to hide his wife and child from the invaders. They are forced to march to a jungle city where the women are sold as slaves and the men are to be sacrificed to the gods in order to end a period of disease and drought. Through a series of totally improbable events, Jaguar Paw is able to escape and sets out to return to his village and save his wife and child. He is pursued by the fiercest warriors of the tribe whom he outsmarts and kills in various skillful ways. It's sort of like Die Hard in the jungle. How he finally escapes the last of his pursuers is so absurd that it is just plain out laughable, but so what - this is a fictional action flick created for pure gut-level enjoyment.

Rudy Youngblood plays Jaguar Paw, and he is an incredible young actor. I predict that we haven't seen the last of him. He has a great face and uses it expertly in this film to convey a full range of emotions. Because the dialog in the film is totally Mayan, spoken lines are kept to a minimum. Youngblood heads up a film full of actors entertaining us with facial expressions and actions rather than through a preponderance of dialog. Add extraordinary scenery, elaborate sets, and an unbelievable number of different costumes and you have a film that gives you some good, solid entertainment.

Neil Turner
June 4, 2007