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Overall Rating

Awesome: 35.04%
Worth A Look37.96%
Just Average: 9.49%
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8 reviews, 89 user ratings

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by Peter Sobczynski

"Run Through In The Jungle"
4 stars

“Apocalypto,” Mel Gibson’s highly anticipated directorial follow-up to “The Passion of the Christ,” feels like a project that was initiated by Terrence Malick and hijacked halfway through by Eli Roth. There are scenes of extraordinary visual beauty that capture the rhythms and feel of a culture alien to us in such an effortless manner that it feels as if we have actually been plunged into the jungles of pre-Colombian Central America and are observing their activities first-hand. At the same time, the film pummels us into submission with so much gruesome violence that the mere act of sitting through it will seem to many viewers as much of an endurance test as any of the various tortures experienced by the characters on the screen. The result is a highly ambitious and viscerally exciting exercise in pure adventure and purer beauty that even the hardiest audience members may find themselves peeking at through the hands covering their eyes.

Set during the end days of the Mayan civilization, “Apocalypto” opens with a half-hour segment that plunges us without hesitation into the unfamiliar terrain. A small group of hunters pursue an elusive tapir and finally bring it down with an elaborate booby trap that is the first of the film’s gory surprises. We see the easy camaraderie between the men as one is tricked by the others into consuming the animal’s testicles in the belief that it will help him get his wife pregnant. We see their uneasiness as members of another tribe wander past and speak of how their own land and people have been ravaged. We see them as they return to their village and rejoin their families and we focus on one, Jaguar Paw (Rudy Youngblood), as he is welcomed back by his extremely pregnant wife, Seven (Dalia Hernandez), and their young son (Carlos Emilio Baez). Everything is so peaceful and tranquil (unless you happen to be a tapir, of course) that any student of action cinema knows that something horrible is just around the corner.

That something horrible occurs the next morning when the village is attacked by another tribe, led by imposing warrior Zero Wolf (Raoul Trujilo) and the exceptionally sadistic Snake Ink (Rodolfo Palacios, who bears an uncanny resemblance to the ubiquitous screen villain Michael Wincott), that proceeds to slaughter most of the inhabitants and imprison the rest. Jaguar Paw is among those captured, though he has enough time to lower his wife and child into a deep pit so that they can avoid detection. After a long and arduous trek through the jungle, the prisoners are brought to the vast and teeming city belonging to their captors and discover that they are meant to be sacrificed by the local high priest as an offering to the gods to end the drought that is ruining their crops. (“Sacrifice,” in this case, means having your chest sliced open, your still-beating heart being torn out and held before your eyes and your head sliced off and thrown down the temple stairs to the throngs below–a sight we are treated to in intense detail.) Through a couple of twists of fate–one celestial and one the result of sheer luck–Jaguar Paw manages to escape his captors and races into the jungle, with Zero Wolf, Snake Ink and others in hot pursuit, in a desperate attempt to rescue his family from the pit–a pit which is rapidly flooding thanks to both a torrential rainstorm and Seven’s water breaking.

Some have attempted to read “Apocalypto” as Gibson’s meditation on contemporary events by equating the Mayans–an once-proud culture undone by the decadence of their leaders and their willingness to promote bloody power plays against their neighbors without fully estimating their tenacity or willingness to defend their way of life–with any number of current world leaders and their own questionable actions. This is valid enough, I suppose, but I think that the best way to approach “Apocalypto” is to set political considerations aside and look at it simply as an adventure tale in the tradition of “The Most Dangerous Game” and similar stories in which Man, traditionally the hunter, finds himself the hunted and is forced to use his wits and primitive skills in order to survive. On that level, the film is a sensational work that takes the most basic and primitive of all story ideas–a man is brutally wronged and gets revenge on those responsible–and breathes new life into it by putting it in the context of something that we have never seen before. The early scenes, in which Gibson introduces us to the characters and, by extension, their very way of life, are impressive in the way that he crams an incredible amount of detail almost purely by visual means. Although the dialogue that we hear is a Mesoamerican dialect as remote as the Aramaic deployed in “The Passion of the Christ,” the narrative is so instantly relatable and the actors (almost entirely non-professionals) say so much with their physical presences alone that the English subtitles that have been provided are hardly necessary.

The middle section, with its terrifying vision of a city teetering on the edge of savagery, brings every icky thing that we ever learned about the Mayan culture to vivid and unforgettable life. As for the jungle chase that makes up the final third of the film, it is a tour-de-force of breathlessly kinetic action filmmaking that is as exhilarating as anything ever put on the screen and climaxes with a vision that gets both an enormous laugh and a twinge of regret as the characters on-screen struggle to comprehend a sight that we in the audience understand all too well. Regardless of what is happening on screen, it has been beautifully photographed by ace cinematographer Dean Semler and I was stunned to discover afterwards that the entire thing was lensed with a digital camera system with results that may sway even those most passionately committed to the tradition of celluloid film.

At the same time, “Apocalypto” is so relentless in its depiction of bloodshed that for many viewers, it will simply be too much. If “The Passion of the Christ” is indeed the most violent film ever made, regardless of context, then this is a close runner-up. Throughout the film, there are slicings, stabbings, stranglings, decapitations, eyes being cut open, wasp attacks, heads cracking on rocks, bugs stuck in open wounds, a savage jaguar attack and a fatal wound that results in the most distressingly convincing arterial spray every seen in a film. To give Gibson credit, the brutality doesn’t feel particularly gratuitous in terms of its context but the sheer amount of gore on display is so overwhelming that at some point, it begins to work against the film and his reliance on it as a weird sort of artistic crutch is beginning to grow a little tiresome. With “Apocalypto,” Gibson more than proves to any naysayers that he does indeed have the goods as a director–his ideas are ambitious and the execution is technically stunning–but at some point, he needs to show us that he can tell a story that doesn’t involve his lead characters enduring the tortures of the damned in order to impress the audience.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=15289&reviewer=389
originally posted: 12/08/06 00:19:58
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Fantastic Fest For more in the 2006 Fantastic Fest series, click here.

User Comments

8/31/20 morris campbell brutal & boring sorry 2 offend any fans 1 stars
8/04/14 sara ausome movie 5 stars
10/05/11 TC Lol its not history. there is no historical account of a man named jaguar paw 5 stars
5/16/11 sam bonner apoalypto is an amazing, one of a kind movie and no honest person could deny it 5 stars
8/22/10 Stephen O'Donnell This film is an epic in every respect. The Academy is disgraced!!! 5 stars
8/03/09 Steve Hock Great movie! Great Kukulkan! 5 stars
9/04/08 Bob Uninspiring. The chase scene is well done, however a bit overkill timewise. 3 stars
8/26/08 Shaun Wallner Awesome storyline! 4 stars
6/03/08 ASH I thought this movie was excellent 5 stars
5/12/08 Dion Kay Get educated & lrn d history! This is NOT fiction or Star Wars, this IS HISTORY, u idiots! 5 stars
4/18/08 Karrie Millheim An amazing movie, i liked learning more about the Mayans 5 stars
3/07/08 Pamela White gripping story, filming, location and acting makes you forget subtitles 5 stars
2/12/08 Lorenzo Electrifying. A veritable masterpiece. 5 stars
12/16/07 gibson' alter ego got it too. a nutcase making crap & butchering history for his friend Mr jesus. hallelujah 1 stars
11/28/07 Dee "I got it", if you believe in Christ, (and I do) you are thankful he is your God. 5 stars
10/29/07 Double M I kept wondering what the point is till the 'end'. should've known better(signs). Tyvm, Mel 1 stars
10/15/07 beau a very upbeat movie, well made on a low budget, actors took good direction from mel 4 stars
8/17/07 Jubei A well filmed movie with very little research on Mayan culture.Entertaining. 3 stars
8/12/07 Annonomiss Brutal violence, endless chase. Really tough to watch. 2 stars
8/08/07 EZ $$ Great movie a little strange but still great 4 stars
7/28/07 Charles Tatum Solid, but not nearly the gorefest you are led to believe 4 stars
7/17/07 Indrid Cold Skillfully made, but about as deep as a frisbee. 3 stars
7/11/07 TreeTiger Excellent movie ... Braveheart in the Jungle. 5 stars
7/06/07 adam review the movie, not the director. you seem to have trouble with that (see:transformers) 5 stars
7/04/07 Piz Great Cinematic Adventure, a little gratuity but a great central character to root for 4 stars
6/18/07 sam bonner much better than people were expecting. A violent view of a lost world. 5 stars
6/15/07 mr.mike much better than expected 4 stars
6/05/07 tracey chambers beautiful movie. very violent but still a great movie 5 stars
6/02/07 fools♫gold People who charted the stars had no sanitation? I dunno... 5 stars
5/31/07 the wizz don't eat before watching. quite gory and intense. good movie 4 stars
5/14/07 matt Very enjoyable but not very deep. Hugely violent so basic Gibson fare 4 stars
5/08/07 Cindy awesome 5 stars
3/17/07 Alice Good work mel ! Great actors, visually perfect. 5 stars
2/24/07 Regina George didn't really survive the school bus accident Drags at first, then suspense mushrooms, then overkill at end. 4 stars
2/21/07 Beau extremely compelling, cant stop thinking about it!!! 4 stars
1/30/07 cherrian eecen an empty cinema at 9pm on Tuesday cheap night. A wonderful feeling of disquiet as I left 5 stars
1/24/07 tony L THE BEST MOVIE OF ALL TIME!!!! Action Packed! Symbolic. 5 stars
1/16/07 subba Daring and bold direction from Mel and a worth watch on big screen. 4 stars
1/15/07 Sumixam Fantastic movie - Very enjoyable 5 stars
1/08/07 MP Bartley Bold and vivid, if just more of Gibson's obsession with naked men being tortured. 4 stars
1/08/07 daveyt A touch predictable plot-wise with gratuitous gore decent movie none the less 4 stars
1/03/07 DINA unexpected plot, but worth of seeing... 4 stars
12/31/06 norman grant it's about the humility each civilization should have of itself. 4 stars
12/27/06 Agent Sands Though I don't stand for the animal violence, it's directed with intense realism. 3 stars
12/27/06 Jim Accomplishes the rare trick of making the Spanish conquistadors seem maybe not so bad. 4 stars
12/26/06 Mauro the best! 5 stars
12/26/06 Brian Great Movie, its harsh critics are exposed as narrowed by their bias. 5 stars
12/25/06 Man out 6 bucks Eye candy, pointless story. A Mexican 1st Blood Pt. 1. Jaguar Paw is Mayan illiterate. 3 stars
12/25/06 John M. Best movie I saw so far this year (which is over now). Go see it!! 5 stars
12/21/06 Joe Historically flawed, but a superb action film and bold cinematic experiment. 5 stars
12/18/06 Sam as much as I didn't want to like this movie it won me over 4 stars
12/18/06 Criddic2 Nicely photographed, exciting and entertaining. 4 stars
12/18/06 Barry I gave it a C minus until the Christians came to save the day. Final grade: D+ 1 stars
12/16/06 Dave Good film, great action, good acting. Gibson does it again! 5 stars
12/15/06 Sylvia True story. Loved it! 5 stars
12/15/06 Quigley Not as gory as people say, but still pretty gruesome. Mel's direction is good. Wait for DVD 3 stars
12/15/06 Brian Mckay Last of the Mohicans - without Whitey. Watchable, but not much of a story. 3 stars
12/15/06 Ole Man Bourbon Bad film, ridiculously great movie. Lots to digest from this product of Mad Mel 5 stars
12/14/06 Roger Ebert If you guys keep reading shit like this, you will smell of shit..Mel Gibson sucks 5 stars
12/14/06 shaun lawton Narrowminded, simplistic, thoroughly UNoriginal, give it up Mel 2 stars
12/14/06 christina whatever,he displayed the mayans pretty accurately,and they were violent.still some errors. 5 stars
12/14/06 orpy mixture of Predator & Last of the Mohicans! Laughable! 2 stars
12/14/06 Dave C Good Movie - more gore in the first five min of Private Ryan than in the whole movie. 5 stars
12/14/06 La Mancha Those who don't like it are hystrical wusses. Loved it! 5 stars
12/14/06 Jeremy best movie of 2006 5 stars
12/12/06 excitement lover mel gibsond rules!!!!! apocalypto the way to go!!!!!!! 5 stars
12/12/06 jdean62 Not a Gibson fan !! However I was surprised i loved the movie... 4 stars
12/11/06 Ray Lanthier pathology + lotsamoney + racism+ historical inaccuracies = Apocalypto 1 stars
12/11/06 john D dumb movie but pretty. Would bo ignored if it wasn't for Gibson 1 stars
12/11/06 Tiffany awesome movie!! 5 stars
12/11/06 Timothy Wilken Important Film for all adults. Much to think about. Masterpiece!!! 5 stars
12/11/06 Luisa great movie, great actors...unforgettable 5 stars
12/11/06 margo this movie kicks ass 5 stars
12/11/06 Chuck Banner More like ridiculoso. Another history from Mel based on heresay. 1 stars
12/11/06 John Eaglehawk great film.. Gibson puts it all on the line. tells it like it was.. 5 stars
12/11/06 steph Best movie i seen in years..love jaguarpaw 5 stars
12/10/06 lee Better than most action flicks out today!!!!!!! 5 stars
12/10/06 Nighy Another cinematic masterbation by Mel Gibson- pathetic. 1 stars
12/10/06 Kimberly Lynn Cole FANTASTIC film, visually purely stunning 5 stars
12/10/06 scotty great movie. is not as gory as a lot of reviewers have made it out to be 5 stars
12/10/06 Rob Adcox Outstanding film -and #1 at the box office! 5 stars
12/10/06 ahnold Engaging good vs evil story. Almost 2 much gore/sadism. Worth 1 look. 4 stars
12/10/06 Carl Chappell It's very fast. But I thought they ate the corpses? 4 stars
12/09/06 Craig Best movie of the year. "Anti-immigration" propaganda my ass. 5 stars
12/09/06 scott the best and worst of humanity captured in an amazing film. 5 stars
12/09/06 adam g b kyklux tempus, a hollow experiance! faith , no? 4 stars
12/09/06 ed christensen surprisingly excellent. oscar worthy, but given gibson's recent indiscretion, no chance. 5 stars
12/08/06 action movie fan spectacular, stunning brethtaking the naked prey the fugirive--a modern action film set in 5 stars
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  08-Dec-2006 (R)
  DVD: 22-May-2007



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