Stu’s been ill and we’ve spent the day just reading, watching TV and generally lazing about. What a joy (not the fact that he’s ill, but the fact that I got to stop for a second). Even though it did mean that Riina and the kids couldn’t come over, which is a bummer. But yeah. I also finally saw Apocalypto.
It pleases me greatly when a movie surprises me positively. I’m not sure what exactly I was expecting from Apocalypto, but it certainly delivered something a whole lot different – in the most positive way possible. I guess I was preparing myself for an ‘epic’ movie about the Mayas, a clumsy page of a history book with great sets, cardboard people and a native language thrown in just to up the ‘art’ value. What I actually got was an extremely enjoyable, and personable, two hours with a well-structured action movie.
For a very short while my expectations of an epic tried to make me wish for something ‘more grand’, but pretty quickly I was sucked in by the action and just sat back to enjoy the simple, but universally touching, story unfold.
Of course, visually the film was stunning, and not just for the lingering light in the rainforest or the intricately constructed Maya city, but for the attention lavished on the tiniest of details. The make-up and costume work was superb, so superb in fact that you completely forgot about it and just believed. Believed that these people were actual Mayans, and not actors, who had sat in make-up for hours to create the illusion.
I really liked the way the cards were laid out right from the start. There was a clever trick of kicking the film off with an almost stereotypical ‘natives hunting’ scene and then blowing that whole premise out of the water with inventive and funny dialogue, thus humanising the characters from the get-go. Often the biggest failure with action films, what ever sort of surroundings they are set in, is that the characters don’t have enough flesh on their bones, you just don’t care about them enough to be that involved in what happens to them. Not so here. I was amazed how quickly quite a few different characters were introduced in a very emotionally thorough way, and how quickly you developed a bond to them. Which of course made all the suspense to come that much more nail biting and the cruelty heartbreaking.
It blows my mind how most of the actors were either at the complete beginning of their acting career or just regular people; carpenters, farmers and so forth. At the start you could see that some of them were new to being in front of the camera, but so many of them grew throughout the film to give pretty spectacular performances, not least Dalia Hernández as ‘Seven’ and Rudy Youngblood as ‘Jaguar Paw’. Having said that, experience does count for something, and in my opinion Gerardo Taracena gives the best and most consistent performance of the movie as a sadistic sociopath ‘Middle Eye’. He really owns the character and embodies it with his whole being, from delivering his lines to subtle facial expressions, and manages to be at the same time scary and disgusting, but also amusing.
Sometimes it’s just love at first sight. Apocalypto certainly managed to seduce me, somehow in a similar way that The New World did, but with more mainstream entertainment value added. In fact, I liked it so much that I watched the film two times back to back, first without commentary and the second time with. And it didn’t feel like time wasted at all.