Apocalypto (2006) 3.36/5 (4)


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Rating: The Good – 84.5
Genre: Action, Adventure
Duration: 139 mins
Director: Mel Gibson
Stars: Gerardo Taracena, Raoul Trujillo, Dalia Hernández

Make no mistake, this is a film unlike anything you’ve seen before. On the face of it, the two sides to the story seem standard enough. On one side, you have a dramatic account of the decadent last days of a once great civilisation and a forgotten way of life. On the other, you have a break-neck violent chase film that makes the central pursuit in Butch Cassidy look tame. However, together you have one of the most blindingly original and substantial action movies ever made. Thus, writer-director Mel Gibson and co-writer Farhad Safinia’s first stroke of genius was in spotting how the former story would make the perfect context for the latter. Their second stroke of genius involved the brave decision to shoot the entire film in ancient Mayan and entirely on location in central and south American rain forests. This paid dividends as it added a unique air of authenticity and relevance to the different aspects of the story whether they be the quiet and communal life of the tribes people, the brutality of their capture by the savage mercenary warriors, the horror of them being sacrificed in the big city, or the frenzied invigoration of their fleetest warrior’s escape.

This is one of those rare films that grabs you by the senses and refuses to let you go from the calm beauty of the earlier scenes to the adrenaline rush of the later scenes. Dean Semler’s cinematography is utterly extraordinary and with Gibson’s sensibilities for action they capture some of the best and most beautiful action witnessed on screen. In many ways, this is the film Hero should’ve been. Gibson knows when to unveil some of the more stunning shots of the forest and when to focus on the grittier elements. The fighting has a thrust and impact which gives the film a remarkable visceral quality and, when he combines the two, he does it at the right time and always with discipline and foresight. The actors are very much unknown Native, Central, and South Americans but they are exceptionally good. In particular Rudy Youngblood gives us an iconic hero (intelligent and quick rather than brutish and strong) whom we are only too happy to root for. An action cinema masterclass!

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