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Critic's Corner


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01/10/2007 - by DNA Smith

"Apocalypto"

Running time: 138 minutes

MPAA rating: R

It is 1519. The Mayan civilization is in its death throes. Around the city, crops are failing and deadly epidemics plague the populace. The high priests are sacrificing humans by the thousands to appease the gods, but to no avail. And there are portents of an even greater danger yet to come.

This is the setting of Mel Gibson's "Apocalypto," one of the best films of the year. It is a grand, period adventure film in the vein of "Braveheart," but with a more compelling story, more intense and graphic action, and jaw-dropping visuals.

Yes, the violence is pretty brutal, but so is surviving in the jungle. If a character is going to be attacked by a jaguar, I don't want some laughable sequence with an actor wrestling a stuffed animal, I want to see the victim's face ripped off. And in the Getting Your Face Ripped Off by a Jaguar Dept., Mel Gibson delivers the goods. In Spades.

The story of "Apocalypto" is told in three 45-minute chunks, with the action quotient amped up with each act.

The first act takes place in the jungle, where we meet the hero of the film, Jaguar Paw (Rudy Youngblood), a young, respected hunter in his tribe. His tribe lives peacefully in the jungle. The women are all bare-breasted and fertile. The men jolly and always successful in their hunts. There's fish aplenty in the streams and the forest provides so much meat, that there's always a tapir on the barbie.

But their quiet, happy existence is short-lived, as a band of soldiers from the Mayan city raids the village, killing most of the tribe, raping the women and then capturing many of the tribe's men — who will be used as human sacrifices by the priests.

The second act is the prisoners' journey through the perilous, savage jungle to the city — a Mayan version of the Bataan Death March

The final act is when Jaguar Paw escapes from the Mayan city so he can head back to his village to save his pregnant wife and child, who are trapped in a pit. Jaguar Paw is chased through the jungle by a ruthless band of soldiers in a thrilling 45-minute action sequence that'll make you leave the theater gasping for breath.

I know the prevailing attitude is that just because Mel Gibson said stupid stuff when he was drunk, that we're supposed to hate his movies now. Frankly, I don't buy into that. My job isn't to tell you whether to like a guy or not. My job as a film critic is to tell you whether I think a movie is worth spending your hard-earned money on.

"Apocalypto" is worth it.

Grade: A

(c) 2007 King Features Synd., Inc.

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