Friday 05 January 2007
His personal troubles have endeared him to nobody, but Mel Gibson doesn't seem to have let them affect his film-making. Few other period movies would dare to deploy unknown actors and dialogue exclusively couched in Mayan, and fewer still would get away with it. Apocalypto begins in a deceptively innocent key, conjuring a prelapsarian world of noble hunters who make jokes about impotence and the mother-in-law (yes, they had them even then).
Then all hell breaks loose as a young brave, Jaguar Paw (Rudy Youngblood), and his tribe are attacked, enslaved and delivered into the fearsome clutches of a sun-worshipping cult. Their hapless bewilderment on arriving at the cult's stone-built temple has a genuine shiver of dread, which turns to outright horror once we realise what fate has in store for Jaguar Paw and his people.
The story, which gradually evolves into a long chase thriller, is modestly scaled, but the violence is dizzyingly savage: if you didn't already know it from Braveheart and The Passion of the Christ, here is a director obsessed with evisceration. Whatever such mauling and mangling and skewering might say about Gibson's psychopathology, you'd have to admit that he stages it with bravura skill and stealth. The scene in which the terrifying Zero Wolf (Raoul Trujillo) and his unmerry men prepare, Olympic-style, to execute the "surplus" victims is breathtaking, and slightly reminiscent of the Gestapo dispatching Resistance fighters in Melville's L'Armée des Ombres. There is something poetic, too, in the way that Jaguar Paw counters his pursuers by the unlikeliest means - frogs, bees, trees, even jumping waterfalls - and you will cheer him all the way.
Children's bookseller wins The Independent's new author search
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 As an ex prostitute, I urge all the political parties to commit to the Sex Buyer Law
- 2 Nokia no more: Microsoft drops once-ubiquitous mobile name – in favour of its Lumia brand
- 3 Renee Zellweger on plastic surgery: 'I'm living a more fulfilling life and I'm thrilled that perhaps it shows'
- 4 Australian café owner sparks debate after saying 'No' to having unruly children on premises
- 5 Couple die within 28 hours of each other after being married for 73 years
Goodfellas star Frank Sivero sues for $250m over Simpsons character
American Horror Story season 4, Fox - TV review: Silly, sensational and sensitive
Breaking Bad season 6 hoax: Vince Gilligan has not confirmed a new series
MOBO awards 2014: Sam Smith sweeps the board with four gongs
The Apprentice, episode 3 - review: Lord Sugar hacks away at the deadwood with another double elimination
Cameron is warned 'no possibility' of UK reducing immigration and that bid to bring in quota on migrant workers would be illegal
Of course, teenage girls need role models – but not like beauty vlogger Zoella
Support for EU membership 'at highest level since 1991' with most Brits wanting to stay 'in'
Residents should throw a street party and mix with immigrant neighbours, councils told
Russell Brand threatened with arrest after filming outside Fox News headquarters
London bus driver 'kicks gay couple off for kissing'