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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Apocalypto


Just watched Apocalypto. Stunning movie, visually and aesthetically. Gruesomely violent, but that’s how life was back then, you're meant to believe. Many will say Gibson loses credibility when he tries to manipulate historical facts to prove a political point. That’s what critics are there for. And come on, its an unabashed story, not a factual documentary.

I left the theatre disgusted on some level but stunned on another. The film may be growing on me.

The film is, to put it bluntly, pure adrenaline. The action sequences are stunning. Rudy Youngblood, who plays the main character, Jaguar Paw, is really a find. The other actors don’t get much scope – in fact, there’s a lot of grunting and growling, and the native characters aren’t as deep as the ones in say The Last of the Mohicans - but its not a movie relying on histrionics. It’s raw, and has to be, given the brutality inflicted on the villagers and in the insanity that plagues the massacring tribe. You’re made to feel the shock and pain of women being raped, but not shown it.

There are many stunning scenes that stick in your memory. The massacre of the village, the sacrifice, the sick girl prophesizing, the waterfall scene, the breathtaking jaguar chase, and the last one, where the protagonist takes his wife and children back into the forest, as sees the Europeans dock on the beach. Maybe he sees what is coming, and knows its best to go back to nature, his home, his village, rather than meddle with the strange white men and put himself and his family in further danger.

There are stereotypes and a couple flaws; what happened to the children left behind after the pillage of the village and capturing of the adults?

You need balls to make a film like this. The language, the scale, the cast, the locales. Probably only Mel Gibson could’ve pulled this off. The last such movie was Terrence Mallick's The New World, which was just drawn out and dull, despite the National Geographic-style visuals.

Gibson is a tortured man on some level, but misunderstood, most likely. If the Passion of the Christ was his way of handling, or tackling, even questioning, his religious beliefs and demons, then Apocalypto is him screaming out at today's political and economic grip - read globalization, corruption - that has driven men to war with neighbors and geographically distanced countries like Iraq.

This is the guy who also made Braveheart, a masterpiece. And here he’s created a work of art that draws the finest of lines between fact and fiction. I’m not going to comment on the language used, as I’m no expert on Mayans, Aztecs and Incas. Some translations weren’t realistic, but that can easily get lost in translation.

As with most of Gibson's movies along the lines of Apocalypto, there are going to be those who form their opinions based on the profit-making theory.

Give the film a chance, and a look-see, and then form an opinion.

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