07 December 2006

Apocalypto Now.


Reviewed by Anthony Sacramone:

. . . The world of this Mayan kingdom is a catalogue of modern maladies: from decadent overconsumption, to warfare as pride-pumping and scape-goating chaos, to mindless assaults on the environment. Those sick with plague, even children, are isolated and marginalized. The elderly are thought worthless because “useless.” Even the king and queen’s kid is an obese little creep. And the symbol of religious authority is a high-priest precursor to the TV evangelist—master manipulator and personal friend of the deity who, in this case, uses an anticipated solar eclipse to shock and awe the crowds with how well he has satisfied the blood lust of their god. An unholy alliance between throne and altar, indeed.

Speaking of blood—there’s gore galore. As usual, Gibson does not spare his audience the viscera of war and sacrifice. The Mayas’ is a brutal way of life that makes severe demands on men, women, even children—all are called to steel themselves against pain and privation as a routine of life. Yet they are never reduced to the status of animals, despite every attempt by raw nature and imperial depravity to make it so. The Maya here are always human—are always us—and it is their struggle to retain their humanity that provides much of the pathos of this tale. (A great deal of credit must be given for this achievement to the extraordinary performances of the indigenous cast.)

. . .

Much attention has been paid to Gibson’s allusions to contemporary events as the controlling referent for Apocalypto. Here he is in a Time article back in March: “The fearmongering we depict in this film reminds me a little of President Bush and his guys.” Oh-kay. In any event, the film works on its own terms, regardless. So whatever you think of Mel Gibson, his beliefs, or his drunken rant, give Apocalypto a chance. It’s not a question of whether Gibson deserves it; if you love cinema, then you deserve it.

Here's the whole thing, with "The Nativity Story" and "The Fountain" thrown in as well.
 

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