Mel Gibson (BRAVEHEART, THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST) tackles the downfall of Mayan civilization in his latest turn as writer/director. Jaguar Paw (Rudy Youngblood) and his fellow villagers lead a peaceful life in the forest until a savage, unprovoked attack turns their world upside down. After hiding his pregnant wife and young son from the invaders, Jaguar Paw joins in the fight, only to be taken prisoner with the rest of the survivors. Uncertain of what the future holds and taken from his home to a thriving metropolis that might as well be a foreign country, Jaguar Paw has just one goal--to return to his wife and child. Jaguar Paw's journey is a coming-of-age saga running the gamut of love, loss, courage, and redemption.
Filmed in Mexico with a cast of indigenous Americans speaking in the Yucatec dialect, this is a tale filled with contrasts. Muted greens and browns define the forest village while the city is awash in bright colors. The wealthy live in opulence, sporting elaborate jewelry, clothing, and hairdos while the villagers wear twig and bone ornaments. The villagers respect both life and nature, but the rulers of the great stone city condone violence in an effort to appease their gods. Gibson's point is clear: the more "advanced" society is corrupt and unrepentant, while the more primitive Mayans have far greater faith and humanity. Gibson also drives home the recurring theme of rebirth with symbolism, including rain, pregnancy, and the arrival of Christianity. Beautifully filmed by Dean Semler and scored by James Horner, APOCALYPTO could benefit from some framing at its beginning to give the viewer a sense of time and place, but otherwise offers a rare glimpse into a lost world.