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-Apocalypto (R)

by Dr. D ~

Touchstone Pictures, Dec. 8, 2006, 138 min., Directed by Mel Gibson,

Cast:  Rudy Youngblood (Jaguar Paw), Israel Contrares (Smoke Frog), Raoul Trujillo (Zero Wolf), Morris Birdyellowhead (Flint Sky), Dalia Hernandez (Seven), Carlos Emilio Baez (Turtles Run), Jonathan Brewer (Blunted), Ricardo Diaz Mendoza (Cut Rock)

The movie opens with a chase scene in the jungle.  A group of village hunters are after a tapir and get their quarry in ingenious and brutal fashion.  They take their prize back to the village for dinner and celebration.  On the way they come across a whole village moving through their territory having been burned out and suffered greatly from a recent attack.  It is like a portent of the future, Jaguar paw is worried that their own village might be next for such a fate.  His father tells him that he must have courage to face what ever comes, after all, their family has been living in this jungle for many generations and they will still be there for many generations to come.

Early the next morning, the Mayan army attacks the village.  The villagers fight with great courage, but the Mayans have better weapons and organization.  Jaguar Paw is able to hide his family in an underground cistern/cave.  Then he returns to fight a losing battle with great courage.  At the end of the fight, the villagers that are left are captured and forced to walk to the Mayan city.  Along the way, Jaguar Paw continues to think about his family who are stranded in the well with no way out.

The camera work in this film is incredible; one visual after another is given with powerful effect.  Remember, the film is subtitled and Mayan is the language spoken by all the characters.  The story moves along so fast and is so riveting that you forget about how much you hate subtitles.  The visuals really do tell the story all by themselves.

The captured villagers are forced to journey past dry and ruined fields, plague infested villages, and on to the Mayan city.  At one village, a diseased young girl proclaims a curse/prophecy over the Mayan officers who refuse to help her; that the ‘Jaguar’ will overcome them all in the end.  At the Mayan city, the village woman are sold as slaves and the village men are taken to the temple where sacrifices are on-going in order to placate the gods and turn the tide of the famine, drought, pestilence, and disease which has over taken them.

Here the scenes are especially violent and brutal as they sacrifice the men one by one pulling their hearts out and chopping off their heads.  Then it is Jaguar Paw’s turn to be sacrificed and at that very moment there is a solar eclipse (the gods must be satisfied).  The sacrifices are stopped and then the captives are taken to the stadium for fun.  One by one, the villagers are allowed to run for their lives as the Mayans throw their spears and shoot their arrows, killing nearly all of them except Jaguar Paw and another.  Then the chase is on and the visuals are even more awesome.

One by one the Mayans are killed on the way by snakes, the environment, by traps, and yes, by Jaguars, and also Jaguar Paw.  There is one incredible scene toward the end that is worth the price of admission.  During the chase, which came near the sea shore, you actually are treated with a scene featuring the Spanish arriving in their ships and landing on the shore with their armored conquistadors and horses.  You actually feel like cheering since the end is in sight for that evil Mayan city.

This was an incredible movie with awesome scenes, but also a movie with terrible brutality and violence.  It moves fast and one cannot believe that 2 hours and 18 minutes have passed by the end.  It does end well and I am happy that I endured the experience.  It isn’t a movie for fun neither for the faint hearted nor the young.  The ‘R’ rating should be taken seriously; it is way too violent for children and even questionable for most teens.


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