July 10th: Brave Old World

145. Apocalypto (Mel Gibson, 2006)

Which of the following best describes Mel Gibson?

  1. Charismatic Oscar winning actor/director with a fantastically successful record at the box-office and a very good eye for a shot.
  2. A homophobic, anti-semitic, misogynist and religious fundamentalist.
  3. Both.

From the little I know about Mel, I don’t think we’d get along so well. But he has an eye for a story and a very strong track record of hitting box-office paydirt. Following his unexpected success with The Passion of the Christ (One letter from being a film about me and my love of tea, cricket and heavy metal), Mel turned his attention to the ancient civilisations of South America – the Mayans to be precise. The premise is simple, a forest village is raided and razed, the adults are captured and the children are left behind. They are taken to a Mayan city where the women are sold as slaves and the men are taken for sacrifice. One of the captured, Jaguar Paw, escapes and so begins the chase back to his village where he’s left his wife and child in the village’s dry well. It’s set up very simply by showing the Mayans in broad strokes to be ‘a bit like us’. They laugh and joke and the boys go hunting whilst the girls have babies. It’s a fraction away from being a bit insulting really but I reckon it’s reined in just enough, though the fact that I noticed it is pretty telling.

Anyhow, the last 40 minutes of the film are pure chase. It’s pure and visceral, successful in that respect where last nights entertainment, The Gauntlet, failed. That’s the crux of the film, the adrenaline rush of the chase. It’s paced and shot to great effect. However, I’m not sure what Mel’s big aim was – the depiction of Mayan society isn’t particularly insightful or challenging but it works as spectacle. It’s lusciously shot, from verdant jungle to the technicolour gore and body paint of the Mayan city, it all looks excellent. But there isn’t really much going on underneath that sheen. Maybe that’s all he wanted, for that it certainly warrants being watched at least once.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *