Friday, February 23, 2007

Magnificently Savage

Film: Apocalypto
Director: Mel Gibson
Starring: Rudy Youngblood, Dalia Hernandez, Jonathan Brewer
What’s wrong with Mel Gibson’s tale of apocalypse of the Maya Civilisation? As the film ends, you'd be thoroughly dissatisfied, but wouldn't be able to pinpoint what went wrong.
A tale of degradation of a society on the verge of self-destruction, the film has an epic sweep, which Gibson handles with all his mastery. If nothing else, you have to admire the director’s eye for details. Even a fleeting one second shot is filled with telling details. Add to that breathtaking photography and make-up and costume that brings to life an era already forgotten, and Yucatan language to add authenticity, and you expect a winner. The film's a winner, except that Gibson chose to tell a story as short as the loincloth his actors wore.
It begins with a philosophical quote and ends up being a ‘primitive thriller,’ a Fast and Furious on foot. This is where the problem lies.
The decline and fall of Maya Civilisation you expect to see is nowhere.
The story is this. The empire is affected by the famine. The land needs blood. So the warriors of the city raid villages in the jungle and take the men as sacrifice. Among them is our hero Jaguar Paw (Rudy Youngblood), who in the meantime hides his pregnant wife and young son in a well. Now he must outwit his captors and escape and, he does.
Where Gibson has nothing much to tell, he fills the scene with details, and raw graphic violence. If the city scenes -- with the human head falling down the stairs -- give you a sense of claustrophobia, or the chase scenes make you sit on the edge, consider the film as successful.
Finally, what the film wants to convey? Read it as an allegory of our time if you will. But it is worth a watch, for the sheer recreation of the age which even history is not very sure about (never mind the fact that critics are crying hoarse that the film is ahistorical.)
One word of caution: this film is not for faint-hearts and certainly not for children.

Rating: *** out of *****

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