Monday, 12 January 2009

Apocalypto (2006)

There are certain films that I am in no hurry to view, yet which I find surprisingly good when I eventually catch up with them. I thought Mel Gibson's previous directorial outing with "The Passion of the Christ" was well-done, even if it was not exactly my cup of tea. Before it was released, no one would have believed that a film shot in Aramaic would find an audience, but then no one allowed for the vast Christian fundamentalist market in America, which turned it into a pot of gold for Mr. Gibson. However, it is even less possible to envision a ready-made audience for a film shot in Mayan and this movie did not find the same success -- which is a shame actually, since it is a well-made, beautifully-shot, and ultimately very exciting action flick.

That it received its television premier in Britain on a very minor satellite channel rather than on Sky Movies or one of the main terrestrial channels reinforces the unfortunate impression that this film is not for the mainstream viewer. However, anyone who is prepared to read subtitles will discover a major achievement here. Gibson creates a stirring saga of a peace-loving group of forest-dwellers being captured by a warlike nation and taken to their city temple to be sacrificed to the angry gods. One young man manages to escape and does all in his power to return to his child and pregnant wife whom he has hidden away in a deep hole, all the while being pursued by a vengeful chief and his men. The second half of this rather long film thereby becomes a chase movie and one is rooting for young Jaguar Paw-- a monumental performance by one Rudy Youngblood -- all the while.

The care that has gone into the production design from the seemingly authentic make-up and costuming to the crowd scenes of thousands is more than admirable, and Mr.Gibson, whatever his faults, deserves our praise. I have read that the film is not exactly historically accurate, but who gives a damn. It's entertaining and brilliantly conceived and that counts for a lot nowadays.
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