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Apocalypto Official Website Review:
Apocalypto is Mel Gibson's latest directorial effort. As with his last film, The Passion of the Christ, Gibson shared writing duties as well as used a foreign language. By the time this film arrived in theatres in December 2006, it had quite a bit of baggage. The film was originally slated for a Summer 2006 release, but had to be delayed because of severe flooding on location in Mexico that slowed filming. Various organizations also generated mostly negative publicity by voicing concerns about how Gibson was portraying the Mayan civilization. Also in July 2006, Gibson was arrested for drunk driving and making anti-semetic comments to the arresting officer. As a result, Apocalypto had a modest domestic gross of fifty million dollars. This reviewer chose to watch and comment on the film on its own merits rather than reviewing the beliefs, opinions and missteps of Mel Gibson himself.

Apocalypto is a visceral experience. The audience finds itself immersed in the jungle along with Jaguar Paw and his Holcane pursuers. The cinematography and Gibson's direction pull the viewer in. Again choosing to use a foreign language, Gibson uses Yucatan Mayan. This forces a utilitarian and visual approach to the storytelling and all but eliminates plodding exposition. What dialogue is imployed is largely used to explore the Mayan belief system, such as the monologues by Old Story Teller and the High Priest.

Gibson's direction lends an intimate feel to the film because closeups are often imployed to feature the emotions of Jaguar Paw and other supporting characters. The one sequence that was epic in scope was when Jaguar Paw is brought to a Mayan city, which showed the sophistication of the culture. Without a bit of expository dialogue, the city's poor, middle class and upper class are clearly defined. It's a marvelous sequence, which culminates in a lunar eclipse that is of no surprise to the high priest and the Mayan king and is used to their own ends to manipulate the populace.

The main plot which centers on Jaguar Paw is tried and true and often reminded this reviewer of Michael Mann's The Last of the Mohicans. However, Gibson is able to add a few twists and turns to keep the audience on their toes. Like The Passion of the Christ, the violence is brutal, graphic and intense, which means that children and the faint of heart would be advised to bypass the film. This reviewer saw Jaguar Paw to be much like the "noble savage" in that his simple life brought him contentment and peace, while the Holcanes and the city they came from was restless and unhappy and destined to crumble much as Rome had fallen.

In the opinion of this reviewer, the second-to-last scene in which the Spanish arrive serves little purpose. It does lead into the last scene in which Jaguar Paw chooses to turn his back on the Spanish ships and head deeper into the jungle, which seemed to this reviewer to indicate that the message of the film is that simplicity in life and belief is the way to go. Unfortunately, Gibson's inclusion of the Spanish arrival only opened the door to criticism about his including a message about the arrival of Christianity.

Apocalypto is a visual masterpiece and more much worth viewing that any violent action film. One thing to keep in mind is that it is a film and not a documentary, so it's not to be taken as fact. Though Gibson endevoured to bring historical accuracy to his film, liberties are taken for the sake of storytelling (not to mention the fact that not all historians agree on details). The film inspired in this reviewer an interest in learning the true history of the Mayans.

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