In the year 1511, the Mayan Kingdom is in decline, and the rulers insist on more ritual sacrifices in order to bring prosperity. When a young tribesman is kidnapped to be offered as a sacrifice, he must make a daring escape and rescue his family.
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This juggernaut of an epic has two equally incredible halves. The first leads up to vicious rituals, complete with unbelievably lavish sets and costumes. The second half is a high tension chase that begins, literally, with our hero being instructed to run for his life. Camera work that hovers between dream-like and guerrilla captures this haunting vision of civilization in decline. Truly stunning.
This film is a classic portrayal of euro-centric whitewashing of Maya culture. Told from the western, christian perspective, this film couldn't be filled with more tropes, binaries and stereotypes. To name a few: women having no agency, using catholic terms "Mother have mercy...forgive us our trespasses', excessive sacrifices, mass slavery, using popular African tropes (voodoo ladies), war (as rape and pillage).
My favourite thing about this movie is also my favourite thing about The Passion of The Christ - how the characters don't speak english, but their actual language, yucateco for Apocalypto, aramaic for The Passion. It's a stimulating movie, entertaining even.. It gets a little bit Home Alone-ish, only with death traps and set in the jungle.
Gibson is a brilliant filmmaker, and this is his masterpiece. The way he combines old-school sensibilities with new-school techniques and pacing compliments his passionate storytelling focused on pain and rebirth. Riveting.
The more I think about this movie the more I like it. The film makers set out to create a classic styled chase movie, and they succeeded wonderfully in my opinion. A Man literally running for his life, while his civilization decays around him. Exhilarating stuff any way you look at it.