Like many viewers, I was put off by Mel Gibson's anti-Semitic rant during his recently-expunged arrest, and did not bother seeing Apocalypto in 2006. I finally watched it last week. I think that was a brutal case of bad timing, contributing to the movie being very underrated.
Apocalypto follows a brave Mayan warrior named Jaguar Paw, as he fights to survive. He has been captured to be sacrificed to the gods. However, he is determined to return to his village, to save his wife, Seven, and his son, Turtles Run.
This film is epic in proportion and earnest in its authenticity. The body count alone numbers 114 (courtesy IMDB). The actors, who are pierced, scarred, and tattooed, speak Maya.
At 139 minutes, it is an investment. However, the balance of action with more intimate plot details keeps it clipping along nicely. It is definitely violent. I am pretty squeamish, and had to allow myself a few extended blinks! The ending is a bit of an abrupt twist, but a good one, that leaves you thinking about what it means for a civilization to end.
I think the best part of this seemingly remote, historic tale is its relevance. I had chills when I heard an old man tell this story to the villagers gathered around a fire:
And a Man sat alone, drenched deep in sadness. And all the animals drew near to him and said, "We do not like to see you so sad. Ask us for whatever you wish and you shall have it." The Man said, "I want to have good sight." The vulture replied, "You shall have mine." The Man said, "I want to be strong." The jaguar said, "You shall be strong like me." Then the Man said, "I long to know the secrets of the earth." The serpent replied, "I will show them to you." And so it went with all the animals. And when the Man had all the gifts that they could give, he left. Then the owl said to the other animals, "Now the Man knows much, he'll be able to do many things. Suddenly I am afraid." The deer said, "The Man has all that he needs. Now his sadness will stop." But the owl replied, "No. I saw a hole in the Man, deep like a hunger he will never fill. It is what makes him sad and what makes him want. He will go on taking and taking, until one day the World will say, 'I am no more and I have nothing left to give.