Never let it be said that Gibson the director (he also co-wrote the script with former assistant Farhad Safinia) doesn't know how to pace and build action like a pro.
Perhaps Gibson is trying to shock us into absorbing the torment and severity of man's inhumanity to man. The tragedy is that the film has the opposite effect: As we are bombarded by savagery, we become inured to it.
Mel Gibson may be a lunatic, but he's our lunatic, and while I wouldn't wish him behind the wheel of a car after happy hour or at a B'nai Brith function anytime, behind a camera is another matter.
By the end I felt sure it was the most obsessively, graphically violent film I'd ever seen, but equally sure that Apocalypto is a visionary work with its own wild integrity. And absolutely, positively convinced that seeing it once is enough.
For all the film's beauty and mythic grandeur, it's the fetishistic fascination with gore that stays in your head and distracts from almost everything else the movie tries to do.
[Gibson] has learned how to tell a tale, and to raise a pulse in the telling. You have to admire that basic gift, uncommon as it is in Hollywood these days, though equally you have to ask what obsessions goad it on.
Filming in the state of Veracruz and on the Yucatan Peninsula, Gibson and his production team transport viewers six centuries back in time to create an amazing 'you are there' effect.
Gibson's interest in human cruelty and human suffering does not make him unique among filmmakers. His preferred mixture of piety and viciousness, however, makes him uniquely suited to our post-Cecil B. DeMille age of cinematic mythmaking.
The production design is superb, and the actors deliver their dialogue in subtitled Yucatecan Maya, but despite all the anthropological drag, this is really just a crackerjack Saturday-afternoon serial.
There's a savage magnificence to Apocalypto, with visuals worthy of Fellini or David Lynch, and the kind of relentless excitement that only a few filmmakers can deliver.