Friday, January 05, 2007

APOCALYPTO - Three parts Herzog; one part McGuyver

Say what you want about Mel Gibson the man, but boy can he direct a B-movie. And like all the best B-movies, APOCALYPTO is full of references to the big, scary issues of our time. We open in a Mayan village in the sixteenth century. A village is brutally sacked and its inhabitants enslaved. As they are force-marched to the main city we encounter a literally decadent civilisation. The crops and the people are in fatal decline, and the creepiest on-screen kid since Regan MacNeil foretells of a final cataclysm that will be heralded by a Christ-like figure: he will be reborn of mud and earth and his coming will be signalled by darkness at midday. When we reach the metropolis we see a desperate people clinging onto a populist religious leader's shamelessly opportunistic prophesies and mass sacrifices. One brave man out-runs his fate, or so we think. His victory is pyrrhic - the imperialists are on the shore.

For the first hour and a half of its run-time, APOCALYPTO is absolutely compelling. The viewer is confronted by a fully realised, brutal civilisation with uncomfortable echoes to our own religious beliefs and political calamities. The photography and production design combine to create an epic spectacle that cries out for the big screen. The sound design is particularly gnarly - every cracking skull - every pierced bone is vividly rendered. I was about ready to declare APOCALYPTO a masterpiece until I reached the final half hour, where Jaguar Paw uses A-team style booby traps and McGuyver style techy knowledge to outfox his pursuers.....

Still, there's no denying it. APOCALYPTO is one of the most original, exciting, horrifying pieces of cinema you're likely to see. Mel Gibson has done what so few studios ever manage - he's followed his own instinct and served up a truly original piece of cinema.

APOCALYPTO is already on release in the US, Germany, Russia, Estonia, Latvia, Hungary, Israel, Poland, Italy, Switzerland and the UK. It opens in France, Australia, the Netherlands and Iceland on the 11th and in Belgium, Singapore, Denmark and Spain on the 19th. It opens in Brazil, Finland and Norway on Jan 26th and in Argentina and Hong Kong on February 1st. It opens in South Korea on February 15th and in Sweden on the 23rd.

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