Apocalypto

Released:  2006

Cast:  Rudy Youngblood, Raoul Trujillo, Mayra Serbulo, Dalia Hernandez, Ian Uriel, Gerardo Taracena, Rodolfo Palacios, Bernardo Ruiz Juarez, Ammel Rodrigo Mendoza, Ricardo Diaz Mendoza, Israel Contreras

Oscar Nominations:  Best Achievement in Makeup (Aldo Signoretti, Vittorio Sodano), Best Achievement in Sound Mixing (Kevin O’Connell, Greg P. Russell, Fernando Camara), Best Achievement in Sound Editing (Sean McCormack, Kami Asgar)

SUMMARY:  Jaguar Paw (Rudy Youngblood) is part of a Mesoamerican tribe that lives in the jungle around the year 1511.  Jaguar Paw and his father, Flint Sky, are  regarded as powerful hunters, and respected men within the tribe.  While hunting one day with a party of others, the two meet a group of strangers fleeing their own lands; one of these strangers explain that they were attacked and driven out, and are now looking for a new home.  The encounter troubles Jaguar Paw, and he is clearly concerned about such invaders coming to his own tribe’s land.  However, Flint Sky tells him that these strangers were ruled by fear, and advises Jaguar Paw to never let this happen to him.  The tribe returns home, and Jaguar Paw greets his pregnant wife, Seven (Dalia Hernandez) and young son, Turtles Run.  Early the next morning, the tribe is attacked by a group of warriors led by Zero Wolf (Raoul Trujillo).  The attack is brutal:  many are killed, and the remaining adults are beaten and then tied up to be transported.  Jaguar Paw manages to hide his wife and child in a rock pit, but then joins the fighting against the raiders.  He is also eventually captured, and one of the raiders, Middle Eye, takes a particular dislike to him.  When Middle Eye overhears Jaguar Paw call Flint Sky “father”, he kills Flint Sky in front of Jaguar Paw.  Having rounded up all of the adults, the raiders start marching them away from their village, leaving the children (and Seven and Turtles Run, still in the hole that is too deep to get out of without help) behind.  Along the way, Middle Eye incurs the wrath of Zero Wolf when he kills one of the ailing prisoners.  After a few days of walking, the party reaches a Mayan city; on the outskirts are destroyed forests, fields and villages.  The guards reveal that the villages were destroyed by a mysterious sickness:  one little girl who has the disease is still alive, but none of the men will touch her.  This girl then seems to go into a trance, and predicts both Zero Wolf’s death and the end of the Mayan kingdom.  The party continues into the city, where they are separated by gender:  the women are sold as slaves (although if they do not sell, they are simply released), while the men are taken to the top of a step pyramid to be killed as sacrifices.  Jaguar Paw witnesses several brutal executions at close range, and is himself then placed on the altar.  However, a solar eclipse then occurs, and distracts the Mayan priests.  They interpret it, and the quick return to normal, as a sign that the gods are satisfied with the sacrifices, and require no more.

Jaguar Paw and the other captives are taken to a field, where Zero Wolf and his men, including his son Cut Rock, prepare to use them for target practice.  The captives are cut free and told to run; if they can make it to the maize at the end of the field, they are granted their freedom.  Cut Rock stands in front of the maize with a knife as a last line of defense, while the other Mayans stand at the other end and throw spears and clubs at the running captives.  Two at a time, the captives are released, and each pair is killed before they reach the maize.  Jaguar Paw is then released, and begins running in a zigzag pattern, making it harder to hit him.  He is wounded in the side with a spear and falls, but is saved when a still-alive tribesman distracts Cut Rock.  Jaguar Paw then kills Cut Rock, and takes off through the field.  Despite the promises of freedom, when Zero Wolf sees that his son is dead, he and eight men take off after Jaguar Paw.  Jaguar Paw runs nearly nonstop for several days, constantly pursued by the Mayans.  He eventually makes it back to his native jungle, where he has an advantage over the Mayans.  He uses this knowledge of the jungle to gradually kill of the Mayan pursuers:  Zero Wolf is killed in a pig trap, while another is killed after Jaguar Paw hits him with poison blowdarts.  By the time Jaguar Paw reaches his former village, only two Mayans are left — but it has started to rain, filling up the pit where his wife and son are.  Jaguar Paw briefly checks on them and finds them alive, but has to continue running.  He runs out of the jungle and onto the nearby beach, where he abruptly stops.  When the two Mayans reach the beach, they also stop and look out at the ocean, where several large Spanish ships have anchored.  All three stand still for a moment, but Jaguar Paw then comes to his senses and runs back into the jungle, while the Mayans continue to watch.  He returns to the pit to find that his wife has given birth to another boy, and is barely keeping herself and the two children above the water level.  Thankfully, Jaguar Paw manages to pull them out.  Some time later, the small family is on the move, looking for a new home.  As they pass the beach, they see the Spaniards on shore.  Seven contemplates talking to them, but Jaguar Paw decides that they should head deeper into the jungle.

MY TAKE:  Well, like most Mel Gibson movies, this one is pretty bloody.  It actually reminded me a little of Braveheart, because there are similar plot points — and the execution of Flint Sky is almost exactly like that of Murron, William Wallace’s wife.  There’s also a similar underdog theme, although Jaguar Paw actually manages to totally defeat his pursuers.  The language used in this movie is actual Mayan (which has been preserved because there are Mexicans with Mayan blood), or as close as the filmmakers could get.  However, there’s not a lot of dialogue in the movie, particularly once Jaguar Paw starts running, for obvious reasons.  Having studied the Mayans in school, I was fascinated by everything about the Mayan city, including the sacrifices; I was also really into the various methods Jaguar Paw and his tribe members used to capture and kill other people/animals, like the pig trap (which looks like a giant flyswatter, with talons), and the darts that Jaguar Paw poisons using an exotic frog.  Actually, I was surprised to find that I really enjoyed the whole movie, because I didn’t expect to.  Yes, it’s gory, but the Mayans were a pretty bloody group of people, so it’s probably pretty realistic.  There’s a lot of tension, since there’s the issue of Jaguar Paw escaping his pursuers AND the issue of Seven and Turtles Run being trapped in the hole — you don’t know how long it will be before somebody discovers them, they die of hunger, or they drown when the hole fills with water.

RATING:  Awesome.  Lot of butt cheeks though.

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