Rudy Youngblood as Jaguar Paw
Iazua Larios as Sky Flower
Dalia Hernandez as Seven
Jonathan Brewer as Blunted
Morris Birdyellowhead as Flint Sky
Carlos Emilio Baez as Turtles Run
Ramirez Amilcar as Curl Nose
Israel Contreras as Smoke Frog
Israel Rios as Cocoa Leaf
María Isabel Díaz as Mother in Law
Espiridion Acosta Cache as Old Story Teller
Mayra Serbulo as Young Woman
Lorena Hernández as Village Girl
Itandehui Gutierrez as Wife
Sayuri Gutierrez as Eldest Daughter
Directed by Mel GIbson
The film’s hero is Jaguar Paw (Rudy Youngblood), a young hunter who comes to the harsh realization that the world is changing when his jungle-dwelling tribe are attacked by a more advanced group of savages. He hides his pregnant wife and child in a cave as the village is pillaged, men are killed, women are raped, and parentless children are left alone to fend for themselves. Jaguar Paw and the survivors are bound together and led on a journey across miles to a hugely-populated city with an imposing pyramid where people are being sacrificed to the gods to help the failing crops. An unexpected event saves Jaguar Paw, but his opportunity to flee is merely a chance for a bit of target practice. Being a fast runner proves to be a blessing for the resourceful young man, who finds ways to evade and fend off his pursuing captors, knowing that he has limited time to get back to his wife and child.
“Apocalypto” is by no means an “art film’ and there’s very little to think about, since we know right away who’s good, who’s bad–hint: the latter are the bloodthirsty killers with absolutely no redeeming qualities–and Rudy Youngblood’s impressive performance as Jaguar Paw makes him the type of hero you’re rooting for as soon as you meet him. Never while watching this do you feel as if you’re watching actors reading lines in a movie, because Gibson sets things up to feel as if you’re being given a glimpse into the past with real Mayan savages. It’s easy to watch the film and be awed by the way Team Gibson captures this singular vision from the lovely scenery to the intricate costumes and jewelry worn by different tribes. When Jaguar Paw arrives at the city, we get to see the full scope of Gibson’s vision through the young man’s eyes, as it is an extravagant spectacle of different tribes, races and costumes unlike anything we’ve seen before, and even more impressive after so many scenes set in the jungle.
It shouldn’t be too surprising that “Apocalypto” is far more violent and brutal than “Braveheart” and even “Passion.” After all, these are savages surviving in the jungle. (Anyone intrigued by this concept should check out “The End of the Spear” which shows how similar South American tribes were warring even centuries later.)
Surprisingly, Gibson throws quite a bit of humor amidst the violence, including an early physical gag that would have fit easily into a Farrelly Brothers movie. The biggest laughs come from a few frivolous subtitle translations like when a large tree nearly kills someone and they yell, “I’m walking here!”–a phrase frequently used by New York pedestriansor when a tribesman tells his poisoned mate that he’s “f**ked.” Not the kind of statements you’d ever think to be in a Mayan’s vocabulary.
Sure, the vengeful nature of the last act leads to a few silly moments like when Jaguar Paw does a wicked power slide to avoid an assailant’s blow that would make Tenacious D proud or some of the things his wife has to endure while in the cave. Still, for a film about a strange time in history executed completely in Mayan languages, “Apocalypto” keeps you riveted to the screen for over two hours without any of the lulls or dips normally found in similar epics.
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