Run Through the Jungle

Apocalypto. Rudy Youngblood, Dalia Hernandez, Jonathan
Brewer, and Morris Birdyellowhead star in a film written by Farhad
Safinia and Mel Gibson and directed by Gibson.

Reviewed by Josef Woodard

Mel Gibson has been getting a bad rap lately for assorted
misdeeds and misspeaking, and most of the scowling scrutiny is due
to a focus on the artist rather than the art. Meanwhile, however,
his directorial chops have soared. He has effectively transformed
himself from a goofy B-level marquee actor to an important voice in
American film, not to mention a bold individualist who dares to
work outside the system to follow his heart and mind as an

The Passion of the Christ is a brilliant film, the finest
crucifixion story to hit the big screen (and necessarily, the most
violent). The new Gibson film, Apocalypto, doesn’t quite rise to
that level, but Gibson does deliver a riveting and unprecedented
vision of native Maya life, in the Maya tongue and without the
Dances with Wolves syndrome of a white heroic interloper in the

Our story begins about a half-millennium ago, with villagers
leading a blithe existence in sync with the jungle around them. Yet
all is not happy in this pre-conquistador, late phase of the Maya
civilization. A brutal Maya raid — part of a sweep for the Maya
slave and human-sacrifice trade — uproots their peace. Take away
the exotic milieu and the exploration of ancient life, and Gibson
has given us a new and visceral kind of action film, with “action”
pitched at various speeds. Much of the first half involves
torturous trudging, as the kidnapped villagers slowly wend through
the jungle toward the harrowing (and visually dazzling) city of
doom, with a temple scene straight out of history — and out of a

Much of Apocalypto’s final act is a fast-paced chase scene, a
manic yet tightly choreographed run through the jungle (we haven’t
seen such adrenaline-pumping running sequences since Run Lola Run).
Our hero, Jaguar Paw (Rudy Youngblood), is hurtling back to the
village, seeking to reunite with his abandoned family, and start a
new life. Alas, the newly arriving Spanish conquistadors have a
different kind of new life and new world in mind. Maybe that’s the
sequel-in-the-making. Either way, Gibson scores again.


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