Mel Gibson has become quite notorious for making movies that revolve around characters being tortured and mutilated. There’s no denying Gibson’s skills as a director, which seem to surpass his ability to act. However, it seems that in nearly every scene, a character is getting his head lopped off, or being impaled by a spear. While he effectively uses violence in Braveheart and in The Passion of The Christ, it seems as if in Apocalypto, his fourth film as director, the violence exists for no real purpose, except to make the movie more action packed.

While it seems as if I’m chastising Apocalypto, I actually enjoyed it a lot. While the movie was written entirely in the Yucatec language and translated into English through subtitles, it doesn’t detract from the story at all. Apocalypto revolves around Jaguar Paw (Rudy Youngblood), a young, well-liked man who lives in the jungle with other members of his tribe. It seems as if the tribe has no worries. However, all of this changes after a vicious tribe invades their town and ravages it from top to bottom. After Jaguar Paw hides his family, he is captured by the tribe and taken deep into the jungle, where he is forced to find a way to escape and return to his family.

One of Mel Gibson’s greatest strengths as a director is he has the ability to create elaborate fight sequences and make them seem realistic. While the violence, at times, seems over the top, he seems to accurately depict what life was like in the 15th century: kill or be killed.

A good portion of the movie contains no dialogue, and instead relies upon the amazing imagery, as well as the emotions of the characters, in order to carry along the plot. This was a good call by Gibson, since sometimes the subtitles tend to carry our attention away from the more important aspects of the film.

Much like the in movie Babel, Gibson cast a number of unknown actors to play the lead roles. I strongly agreed with this move in Babel, and find it to be just as effective in Apocalypto. By casting actors of Native American descent, it gives the movie a much more complete feel, as if we’re being immersed in their culture.

Mel Gibson is certainly an interesting man. Over the years, he’s played a number of different roles, directed a series of incredible movies and certainly had his fair share of controversy. However, I believe it’s Apocalypto that truly defines who he is as a director. The violence certainly takes up a good portion of the film, but during the graceful, touching moments, it teeters on the edge of becoming a cinematic masterpiece.

Grade: B+

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