Apocalypto (2006)

(In theaters, December 2006) That wily Mel Gibson! Who would have thought that his vast Mayan epic would be an excuse for a Rambo-like 40-minutes chase sequence? (Probably the same one who saw The Passion Of The Christ and said “Hey, that’s a shlock horror film!”) Despite the subtitles and lush visuals, despite the historical recreations and the fundamentally different nature of its protagonists, Apocalypto is both a travelogue and an action film, first taking us from jungle to decadent civilization and then following its protagonist through an extended chase where he picks off his opponents one by one. Tons of very painful gore belie Rousseau’s “noble savage” ideal, but finely uphold the violent nature of Gibson’s oeuvre so far. I do have a number of problems with the exactitude of the historical recreation, but not its verisimilitude. Though the film relies on two honking Once-in-a-Century Big Events as plot drivers, these contrivances pale in comparison to the pulse-pounding effect of the film’s third act. Apocalypto ends up being being a surprisingly accessible, vastly entertaining film. For those who can take the bloody nature of it.

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