Director Mel Gibson puts plenty of passion into his wet-and-wild cross between Last Of The Mohicans and First Blood, a chase movie set against the decline of the ancient Mayan civilisation. After his village is ransacked, young warrior Jaguar Paw avoids sacrifice and slavery by escaping his captors before racing through the jungles of central America to save his pregnant wife and child from monsoon rains. And all this with the bad guys on his tail...
The only novel thing about Apocalypto is that fact that it's all in the Mayan language. Apart from that, the plot is basic and the action – by definition – old fashioned.
It could have been set in any time and place, but one is reminded of countless Westerns from decades ago. The big themes of declining civilisations and imminent colonisation are all incidental, and are only hinted in an attempt to give the film gravitas.
Gibson's use of the ancient tongue (having given us Christ's lesson in Aramaic) adds realism to the action, which is as bloody and brutal as it was in (the overrated) Braveheart.
Made up of first-time actors, the cast is excellent. Looking like Ronaldinho without the teeth, Rudy Youngblood plays heroic tribesman Jaguar Paw, who is initially unable to hold off the raiders when his village is attacked. But before he is captured, he has time to hide his wife and kid.
When his father is killed before his eyes, revenge and rescue become the order of the day.
Convinced of his fate, Jaguar Paw has no fear of the death which awaits him as his captors waste no time in offering up sacrifices to their gods. But thanks to a slice of astronomical luck, Jaguar Paw avoids the cut and makes his escape.
With the chase in motion, the inventive 'Paw' uses the jungle's natural resources (such as beehives and poison frogs) to take out his pursuers one-by-one in true First Blood fashion.
Like the surrounding vegetation (and most Hollywood blockbusters), Apocalypto could have done with some trimming. And the blood-soaked boys-own adventure comes across as a bit hollow.
The characters comes across as too modern in attitude and behaviour; despite not being in English, the dialogue somehow doesn't feel authentic.
Entertaining though it is, an epic it ain't.