After causing heaps of controversy and taking in just over 600 million dollars worldwide at the box office with The Passion Of The Christ, Mel Gibson returns for his fourth directorial outing with Apocalypto.
Set towards the end of the Mayan civilization, the film is centred on Jaguar Paw (played by Rudy Youngblood) and his village. The village one day comes under attack by a violent invading force. The villagers are taken on a horrific journey through the jungle to a harrowing end that awaits them. After a sudden twist of fate, Jaguar manages to escape and tries to make his way home to save his family.
The most interesting thing about Mel Gibson’s latest action epic is the fact that the film doesn’t actually deal with the end of the Mayan civilization, it only hints at it. Instead Gibson has given us a simple story of a man trying desperately to fulfill his destiny and save his family. The film begins by introducing us to the villagers and lets us get to know them a little. You feel Gibson was trying to make sure we care about the characters and therefore feel for them when their way of life is so horribly disturbed, and he certainly succeeds. It very nicely sets up events that follow.
What does follow includes a breathtaking chase through the jungle where Jaguar Paw uses elements of his surroundings to his advantage against his enemies. It’s a brilliantly executed action sequence that of all films is quite reminiscent of the famous jungle sequence in Sylvester Stallone’s Rambo: First Blood. That’s a comparison I didn’t expect to be making. However one I did anticipate making was that, much like Gibson’s previous efforts, Braveheart and The Passion Of The Christ, the movie is extremely violent and gory in places.
The cast, all relatively unknown actors, are very good, especially Rudy Youngblood in the leading role as Jaguar Paw. You really feel for his character and root for him to beat the odds and save his beloved family. I think he could have a bright future ahead of him. I also really enjoyed some of the supporting performances; it’s always a pleasure to see a group of unknown talent blossom in such a large-scale film like this one.
Overall I would have to say that Apocalypto wasn’t quite the ‘action epic’ I was hoping it would be. But it is a very entertaining action spectacle filled with lush surroundings, solid performances, and a simple yet effective story. As I mentioned earlier, this is Gibson’s fourth time directing a film, and I can say I have thoroughly enjoyed every one of them.