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Apocalypto

Year: 2006
Production Co: Icon Entertainment
Director: Mel Gibson
Producer: Mel Gibson
Writer: Mel Gibson
Cast: Rudy Youngblood
After The Passion of the Christ Mel Gibson was like Tupac - it was a case of 'all eyes on me'. The world was waiting for another heart-stopping historical thriller, and he mostly gave them one.

However, Apocalypto isn't as serious as The Passion was. This is Mel's Star Wars where The Passion was his THX-1138. It's much more a rollicking, good-time adventure and chase movie for it's own sake, albeit with a lot of historical context, authenticity and (we presume) accuracy.

We know the Mayans were a bloody race who offered blood sacrifices, and that they decimated a lot of the indigenous tribal people of South America to feed their gods' insatiable bloodlust. What better setting for a heart-pounding chase thriller?

Not that you'll be disappointed if you were waiting for another weighty historical/social document, but Apocalypto is less a movie with something to say than it is an action flick. It's just that with Mel in the director's chair fresh off fundamentalist Catholic duties, he was given a truckload of money for sets, dialect training and the overall sense of realism.

Jaguar Paw (Youngblood) enjoys an idyllic life with his beautiful young wife, wise elders and his community of hunters and friends in the jungle. But when a brutal Mayan force sweeps through the village to enslave everyone of age, his life is shattered as he watches his friends die and his village burned.

He's taken hostage along with the survivors, dragged tied to a post to the vast and terrifying Mayan city where they're sold as slaves or taken to the top of the towering pyramids of worship, gutted and beheaded to appease the Mayan Gods.

Jaguar Paw is saved by an incredible co-incidence as a total eclipse appears and the holy overseers consider the gods satisfied for the time being. Instead he's taken to an arena for target practice but escapes, killing the son of a warrior chieftain and fleeing into the jungle to return home to his wife and son where he's left them for safekeeping in a deep hole in the ground.

The chase is on, and Jaguar Paw will rely on the luck of snakes, marauding panthers, (in a memorable attack sequence) quicksand and his own boobytraps to stay one step ahead of his pursuers.

It's bloody, thrilling and feels real every sweaty, terrified step of the way. While not a triumph of history or society, a bloody good movie.

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