If you’ve seen Apocalypto, an exotic, brutal, and very memorable experience, you’re probably wondering why I’m talking about it. After all, the movie was so popular and caused such controversy that everybody must’ve heard about it. Now, although a lot of people head about, there’s also a decent chunk of people who haven’t. Or who simply wasn’t in the mood for such an affair. There are many reasons why someone didn’t catch this movie in its first run. I won’t go into them but I will mention one more thing.
Apocalypto is a movie with a huge replay value. With a running time of a bit under two and a half hours, a lot of shit goes down in this Mel Gibson masterpiece. Hell, maybe this is the reason why you didn’t watch the movie, because of him. I’m here to advise you to give it a chance. Old Mel was channeling something truly magnificent and powerful. Remember, he shot this movie just two years after The Passion of Christ. Sometimes, just sometimes movie transcends its original purpose and becomes a vessel for all sorts of concepts.
Mel Gibson and Farhad Safinia set out to make a different breed of action movie. Moreover, they wanted to strip it down to its bare bones in almost every respect. There are no guns in Apocalypto but there are arrows, hatchets, and knives. Foot chases replaced car chases with surprisingly great results. The whole thing reminds me of Mad Max: Fury Road with a bit more exposition and drama. Apocalypto is an epic historical adventure that offers a look into a different and now almost forgotten world. It’s visually impressive with an equally powerful narrative about the harshness of life back then.
It is the year of our lord Kukulcán 1502 and everything seems to go on as it has been for centuries in Yucatán. One of the tribes living in this area hunts and forages for food in the immense jungle. However, after a chance encounter with another tribe, their elder tells an ominous story about the dangers to come. And they indeed come.
Set in the exotic and lush jungle, Apocalypto offers a break from all the urban action movies. It tells a dark and intense story about the perseverance of the human spirit. It’s also very thought-provoking as you keep seeing these strange sights and customs. Their brutality and bizarreness at first seem unfamiliar but if you’re willing to go deeper you’ll see connections with the way we live today. From the banter among hunters in the opening scene over the night in the village to finally, the big chase, there will be similarities.
What a bold decision to cast an all-native cast all speaking Indigenous Yucatec Mayan language. A decision that also made this movie into a perfect piece of escapism that will take you back in history. The tattoos, piercings, and all other body modifications look so stylish, cool, and different. Maybe you’ll find the inspiration for your next tattoo right here. I also loved how the world just keeps getting bigger and bigger. The action scenes are visceral and exciting and I really should stop here before I bore the shit out of you.
I won’t bother you with technical and set details along with costumes and weapons, you know that everything was done flawlessly. I will, however, bother you a bit with a scene that simply blew me away. And this was my fifth or sixth viewing mind you. It’s the one where our party encounters a sick girl standing by the path in the jungle. There was something so mesmerizing about her and her eyes especially that I can see her right now in my mind.
What’s even more intriguing and something that I didn’t know prior is that she’s played by an girl who’s not an actress. She apparently lived in a hut eerily similar to the ones people live in the movie. Now, there’s a lot of debate about the historical accuracy of some of the scenes but this shouldn’t concern you. We all know that people take liberties in these sorts of movies, so if you want to know more there’s an abundance of resources online. A simple search or a YouTube video will help you get a better picture of what was like back then.
Finally, I want to add that I think Apocalypto’s biggest quality is its uniqueness. There’s really no other movie like it. Sure, you can watch Aguirre, the Wrath of God or more recent Embrace of the Serpent but they don’t offer the same level of suspense and ultimately, entertainment. This is also a survival movie and because of this I just want to add The Revenant to the list. Along with The Green Inferno, that might feel a bit more exploitative.
Director: Mel Gibson
Writers: Mel Gibson, Farhad Safinia
Cast: Rudy Youngblood, Jonathan Brewer, Morris Birdyellowhead, Raoul Max Trujillo, Gerardo Taracena
Fun Facts: In a scene where Rudy Youngblood playing Jaguar Paw is running from a jaguar, he was really afraid for his life. Jaguar was on a thin tether and was actually chasing Rudy while he was trying to outrun him.