Apocalypto (2006) – REVIEW

by Jordache Wee

Release Date: December 8, 2006
Directed by: Mel Gibson
Music by: James Horner, Rahat Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan
Starring: Any Puello, Rudy Youngblood, Dalia Hernández, Jonathan Brewer, Mayra Sérbulo, Morris Birdyellowhead, Carlos Emilio Báez, Amílcar Ramírez, Israel Contreras, Israel Ríos, María Isabel Díaz, Iazúa Laríos, Raoul Trujillo, Gerardo Taracena, Rodolfo Palacios, Ariel Galván, Bernardo Ruiz, Ricardo Díaz Mendoza, Richard Can, Carlos Ramos, Ammel Rodrigo Mendoza, Marco Antonio Argueta, Aquetzali García, María Isidra Hoil, Abel Woolrich 

In early 16th century, Jaguar Paw (Rudy Youngblood) and his father Flint Sky (Morris Birdyellowhead), with their tribesmen encounter a group traumatized refugees while hunting for food. One of the group’s leader told Flint Sky that their lands were ravaged, and asks for permission to pass through the jungle. When Jaguar Paw and his tribesmen return home, Flint Sky tells his son not to let the refugee’s fear infect him.

The next morning, after Jaguar Paw wakes from a nightmare with the vision of the refugee leader, he sees warriors entering the village and setting the huts on fire.  Zero Wolf (Raoul Trujillo), attacks villagers. Jaguar Paw slips out with his pregnant wife Seven (Dalia Hernández) and his little son Turtles Run, lowering them by vine into a deep vertical cave, tying the vine off so they could climb out later.

Jaguar Paw (Rudy Youngblood)

Jaguar Paw kills the raider and returns to help the village. But was captured and brought forth to his father by Middle Eye (Gerardo Taracena), whom Jaguar Paw almost killed, slits Flint Sky’s throat while the bound Jaguar Paw can only watch in horror. Before the raiders leave with their prisoners, Snake Ink, one of the raider captains, notices Jaguar Paw staring toward the cave. Suspicious of the tied off vine hanging into the cave, he cuts it.

Jaguar Paw's wife: Seven (Dalia Hernández) and his son Turtles Run trapped at the bottom

A short distance from the village they join another group of raiders who have captured the refugees Jaguar Paw met the day before. Later, Cocoa Leaf (Israel Ríos), a wounded captive tied to the same pole as Jaguar Paw nearly tumbles off a cliff, but Jaguar Paw and the others are able to pull him back up with incredible effort. Middle Eye, who is guarding them, taunts Jaguar Paw by cutting Cocoa Leaf loose and he fell to his death.

They marched pass another village which has been burnt due the plague. A small girl dying of plague prophesies that a man running with a jaguar will bring the raiders to those who will scratch out the earth and end their world.

Jaguar Paw and his fellow tribesmen about to be sacrificed to the sun god

In the city’s outskirts, the female captives are sold as slaves and the males are escorted to the top of a step pyramid. The high priest sacrifices several captives, including Jaguar Paw’s friend Curl Nose (Amílcar Ramírez), by cutting out their beating hearts before beheading them.

When Jaguar Paw is about to be sacrificed, a solar eclipse (also prophesied by the girl) occurs. The high priest looks at the king and the two share a knowing smile while the people below panic at the phenomenon. The priest declares that the sun god Kukulkan, is satisfied with the sacrifices. He asks Kukulkan to let light return to the world and the eclipse passes. The crowd cheers in amazement and the priest orders that the remaining captives be led away and disposed of.

Zero Wolf takes the captives to a open space. The captives are released in pairs and are forced to run the length of the open space within the open space, offering Zero Wolf’s men some target practice, with a cynical promise of freedom if they can reach the end of the field alive. However, Zero Wolf’s son, Cut Rock, is sent to the end of the field to eliminate any survivors. The raiders target the runners with javelins, arrows, and large stones.

The first pair are Jaguar Paw’s last living friends, Smoke Frog (Israel Contreras) and Blunted (Jonathan Brewer). Smoke Frog is struck by a heavy stone, then finished off by Cut Rock while Blunted is impaled through the stomach by a javelin.

Next up are Jaguar Paw and the refugee leader from the beginning. Although they almost make it, the refugee leader is shot through the head by an arrow and Jaguar Paw is shot through the stomach by an arrow. As Cut Rock approaches to finish Jaguar Paw, the not-quite-dead Blunted trips Cut Rock to buy Jaguar Paw time. Cut Rock gets up and savagely kills Blunted and turns to finish off Jaguar Paw, but is slit through the neck with an arrowhead from the arrowhead Jaguar Paw retrieved from his wounded stomach. In no time, he flees into the field and tries to run as fast as he can for his freedom.

Jaguar Paw runs through a withered field and an open mass grave before finally reaching the jungle. The enraged Zero Wolf and his men pursue Jaguar Paw into the jungle and back toward Jaguar Paw’s home.

Along the way, one of the raiders is killed by a black jaguar angered by Jaguar Paw. Another raider is killed when a venomous snake bites his neck. Eventually, after running all night, Jaguar Paw finds himself caught between a high waterfall and his hunters and is forced to jump. He survives the fall and declares from the riverbank below that the raiders are now in his fatherlands.

Zero Wolf (Raoul Trujillo) stabs Snake Ink (Rodolfo Palacios) who refuses to jump from a high fall

Zero Wolf commands that he and his men jump the falls as well. While most make it alive, one smashes his head on the rocks below and is killed. The remaining men swim to the shore and carries on their pursuit, but Jaguar Paw is prepared and camouflaged in mud, kills one raider with poison darts.

He then confronts Middle Eye and bludgeons him to death with Mayan war club. It begins raining heavily which starts to flood the cave where Jaguar Paw’s wife and son are trapped. He rushes to save his family, Jaguar Paw is confronted by Zero Wolf and shot again with an arrow. As Zero Wolf advances to finish Jaguar Paw he is impaled and killed by a trap for hunting tapir.

Following Zero Wolf’s death, the two remaining raiders chase Jaguar Paw to the beach where they encounter Spanish galleons, anchored off the coast, with soldiers making their way ashore. The amazement of the raiders allows Jaguar Paw to flee. He returns into the forest to pull his wife and son out of the flooded pit where they are hiding, and where Seven has just given birth to a healthy second son. Jaguar Paw tells his family to return with him to the forest. They head into the jungle in search of a new beginning.

Reviewer’s Note:
This film explore the Mayan’s tribesmen and its civilization. Director Mel Gibson takes us on a journey to visit the culture and the language (Yucatec Maya). This is an artistic and historic film.

And you wonder about the thousand steps at the Mayan Temple was actually a place to conduct a sacrificial ritual to appease the sun god by ripping your beating heart out and then beheading you to have your head rolling down the steps before the people below use you as their trophy. 

Now that’s one “holy shit” moment that you are thankful that you are not in 16th century. 

The only holy shit moment, you are getting is Mel Gibson. He has done it again to surprise you with more reasons why you should watch this film.

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