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When Mel Gibson’s directorial work is discussed, it is usually about The Passion of the Christ, Braveheart, or his now Oscar-nominated comeback Hacksaw Ridge. But for some odd reason, Apocalypto, his nail-biting epic of survival in Mayan-era Mexico, is left out. This is a shame, because it is an incredibly well-directed, relentless journey packed with such uncompromising energy that its two-plus hours soar by. Yet the audience feels every minute of tension as protagonist Jaguar Paw — a Mesoamerican tribesman — is put through a series of hellish survival scenarios to save his family. Relying heavily on an economy of well-chosen images, Apocalypto is a brutal and incredibly satisfying piece of filmmaking that deserves more recognition. A bonus is its recreation of Native Yucatec dialect, along with a cast of indigenous Mexican and Native American actors (and non-actors) that creates a deeper level of immersion and doesn’t white-wash history.

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