It probably is the easiest thing in the world to make a movie about a bunch of bad guys chasing a good guy for whatever reason. Some of the memorable ones that come to my mind would be Fugitive (Harrison Ford, Tommy Lee Jones) and US Marshals (Wesley Snipes, Tommy Lee Jones). While these movies had the same underlying theme of the leading star being framed for a crime he did not actually commit, it also had the honest cop who was just doing his dury trying to get the fugitive into custody.
Mel Gibson does the same time-tested theme of a chase sequence in Apocalypto (I know most of you are wondering what in heaven’s name I am talking about, comparing Apocalypto to Fugitive or US Marshals, but read on). However, what Mel Gibson does differently in this movie is that he puts the same story in an era where adrenaline was more in vogue than fast cop-cars and sheer determination was more important than access to high-tech gadgets.
The movie Apocalypto itself deals with the travails of Jaguar Paw, a young Mayan chief whose peaceful life is disturbed when members of another ravaging tribe kill all his tribesmen and capture his fellow warriors and take them away to be sacrificed to the Sun God. Jaguar Paw manages to escape his captors and how he gets back to his wife and son who are in hiding make up the rest of this movie.
While all of the above may sound like a deceptively simple plot to the movie, the sheer brilliance with which Mel Gibson has made the movie so realistic is mind-blowing. For starters, the movie was filmed in Mexico and has been made in Yukatec Maya Language. To quote Wikipedia’s words about the theme of the movie –
The movie is partially intended as a political allegory about civilizations in decline. Said Gibson in September of 2006: “The precursors to a civilization that’s going under are the same, time and time again… ” This is shown most literally though the opening quote by Will Durant and the last line by Jaguar Paw, “…seek a new beginning.”
What excited me the most about the movie was the actual chase sequence in itself. While it is quite reminescent of the Predator chasing Arnold Schwarzenegger in the movie Predator, in that it happens in the jungles and that Jaguar Paw makes use of most of the jungle to save himself, what makes Apocalypto stand out is the sheer adrenaline that you feel pumping through your veins when you are hoping for Jaguar Paw to come back home to his wife and son. Mel Gibson manages to keep your heart racing until the very end of the movie brilliantly.
While this movie has been accused of historical inaccuracy and classified as too violent for small children, I honestly believe that it should not be seen as a lesson in history, but rather as a movie which wanted to take a time-tested theme of a fugitive on the run, but in a completely different setting. The film also is supposedly inaccurate in its depiction of the Mayans as a civilization which practised human sacrifice while it was supposedly the Aztecs who actually did this.
In any case, this is one movie which truly deserved all the accolades that it is receiving right now and it absolutely a not-to-be-missed movie.