Friday, March 02, 2007


By Reymundo Salao

Set in the Yucatán Peninsula (Mexico) before Spanish contact, APOCALYPTO depicts one man's experience during the decline of the ancient Mayan civilization. The story begins when a Yucatan tribe is nightmarishly ravaged by merciless warriors. After the scourge, its people are taken prisoner, and into the Mayan city, they are taken. For what reason? They would soon find out. In a radical twist of fortune, one of the tribesmen named Jaguar Paw escapes captivity and runs for his life into the woods, with bloodthirsty Mayan warriors on his tail.

The film is co-written (the other one is Farhad Safinia) and directed by Mel Gibson. if you are familiar with the directorial works (and even the ones where he was just an actor) of Mel Gibson, you could see some detail trademarks that are familiar. One such detail is the scene where a villain slits the throat of a helpless important character. Such a scene can be seen in Gibson's Braveheart. A similar style of sadistic killing of a character close to the protagonist can be observed in Gibson’s movies where he starred in. Gibson seems to always have a secondary main villain who is designed so that the audiences will really hate him. This is similar to Braveheart and also something he probably picked up from his Mad Max movies. Apocalypto has many elements that connect love, loss, and vindication, all elements he used in a similar manner in Braveheart. His use of scenes of sheer harmony and peace to be disturbed by a stark contrast of violence, as a tool for strong drama, similarly (also) in Braveheart and Passion of the Christ can be noticed.

The scoring, cinematography, and set design magnificently complement each other. It can be noticed that this film was shot in high definition, the colors are vivid, and the motions are lifelike. Each fragment of film can effectively tell of its haunting theme.

This film is very violent and bloody. Audiences must be wary of the adult content of this movie. The scenes of gore are, at many times, graphic. Same can be said about the tone of the climactic parts of the movie, grim and heavy on emotion. It should be noted that the dialogue for this movie is in the Yucatan dialect, as it aims for authenticity in production.

While Apocalypto may be a perfect educational tool for anthropology class, it works great as an action thriller. I thought the movie would be somewhat of a "national geographic" kind of treatment that there would be a danger of it being boring. But I was wrong, Mel Gibson let's us see a portion of Mayan history filled with gripping suspense, thrill and sheer horror. It also contains interesting dialogues including one which has a very environmental tone, and philosophical as well. The movie is partially intended as a political allegory about civilizations in decline. Said Gibson in September of 2006: "The precursors to a civilization that’s going under are the same, time and time again... "This is shown most literally though the opening quote by Will Durant and the last line by one character," a new beginning.

I was glad that this movie is in extended run. Viscerally rich with all aspects of emotion from beauty to utter fear, APOCALYPTO is a movie so stimulating it continuously interests you till the end.

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