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Apocalypto
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Apocalypto – Review

WHAT’S IT ABOUT?

We’re in the Mayan forests of central America, several hundred years ago, and the young men of Flint Sky’s tribe are out hunting, learning from their village elder.
While hiding in the undergrowth, Jaguar Paw (Youngblood) sees members of a rival tribe being led through the forest, tied to a pole, by a group of fearsome aggressors.
Soon afterwards, the same aggressors attack Jaguar Paw’s own village – killing the weak and kidnapping the strong. Jaguar Paw manages to lower his young son and heavily pregnant wife into the relative safety and seclusion of a deep crevice, before he too is lead away.
Jaguar Paw and his fellow villagers find themselves – along with the rival tribe members he’d seen earlier – being offered as human sacrifices, atop pyramids. One by one, their hearts are ripped out and shown first to the still breathing owner and then to the baying crowd below, before the heads are removed and thrown down the steps of the pyramid.
A quirk of fate provides Jaguar Paw with an unexpected opportunity to escape, with the finest enemy fighters in hot pursuit, through a jungle they know better than him.
He has to call on his keenest natural instincts to outwit the enemy, save his family and forge a future, with a new civilisation knocking on his door.

WHAT’S IT LIKE?

After the painfully uncomfortable violence of The Passion of the Christ, it probably shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise to hear that Mel Gibson’s follow-up film as director is equally – if not more – bloody.
What makes Apocalypto infinitely more watchable is the fact that the violence here doesn’t seem to be gratuitously rammed down your throat for political reasons – instead, fitting perfectly into a tale of an ancient civilisation for whom extreme violence was the only means of survival – whether to hunt food or fight off invaders.
The film is essentially one set-piece after another, each more colourful, more dramatic and more bloody than the last.
It’s bursting with real, human energy, with the characters running, fighting or generally baying for blood.
The story itself isn’t particularly clever and with the basic lifestyles of the characters, it was clearly never going to particularly complex, but at its heart is a tale of human survival – at all costs – to save those you love – something most people can identify with.
Casting completely unknown actors, all speaking in an ancient Mayan tongue, gives the film an added authenticity.
Before I went in to the cinema, I had no idea what the ancient Mayans looked like or how they lived – perhaps I still don’t, but I certainly FEEL that I’ve learned something, even if it’s just Gibson’s take on their society.
It’s very rare that you can see a film these days and feel that you’ve seen something you haven’t seen before.
And it’s equally rare to find yourself sitting in a cinema and feel your heart pumping…as much as the heart you can see being held aloft on the big screen.
Odd as it is to describe a film of such unadulterated and unapologetic violence, it’s as disturbing as it is original, as moving as it is refreshing.

Opens nationwide 5th January 2007

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