Apocalypto (2006)
Buena Vista Home Entertainment
Cast: Rudy Youngblood, Dalia Hernández, Jonathan Brewer
Extras: Commentary Track, Deleted Scene, Featurette

The story begins with a native Mayan tribe hunting together, and after the successful hunt, playing tricks on one another. On their way home they encounter another tribe, the first of a series of foreboding events which are all part of a prophecy involving the main character, Jaguar Paw. While much attention is being given to the "Pirates of the Caribbean" releases, I feel that this should have been delayed for another week to get the attention it rightfully deserves. As a work of the highest caliber, "Apocalypto" is at once brutal, surreal, heartbreaking and quite simply brilliant. The violence, which is extremely graphic and intense throughout the movie, did not shock me as much as I had expected. Mel Gibson uses it not as a gimmick, but as a tool to tell the story.

Don't let this historical epic fool you, at its heart, it is pure adrenaline. And this Blu-Ray disc shines like none before it in many ways. The picture is crisp and bright and clean, and there are many beautiful locations that will take your breath away. There are also many scenes of violence and misery that fill the screen with utter detail, and sometimes you may want to squirm in your chair, particularly when we arrive at the Mayan Temple. These nightmarish scenes fill every inch of the screen, and it is jolting, kind of like a painting by Hieronymus Bosch. High definition is the perfect presentation format for this film, and the fact that it is a digital to digital transfer and there was no film involved makes itself very apparent, and yet the color and texture and general feel of the movie seems very film like. I detected no signs of edge enhancement at all, and the dark scenes were well rendered, and the blacks were very black. This is without a doubt one of the treasures of my collection, and one that is suitable to show off any system. This is a movie that will stay on my shelf permanently and will find its way into my Blu-Ray player many times to come.

From the opening of Mel Gibson's "Apocalypto" on Blu-ray Disc, we realize that we are in for a real treat, especially in the sound department. The sounds of the jungle insects fill the entire room with a wide sound field in PCM uncompressed. It doesn't take long for me to realize that I am in uncharted territory and that my living room is about to become closer to a movie theater than ever thought possible. While you are watching the movie, you will hardly notice the subtitles and that the language is in Mayan (such an amazing language to listen to in PCM 5.1 Uncompressed audio). Most of the communication in the film is expressed through the characters' eyes and body language, in this story violence is the language of men. The subwoofer gets a serious workout in some scenes, like when a tree falls, the whole living room shakes. The surround speakers are constantly active.

Of the special features, all are presented in 1080i or 1080p, except the Deleted Scene of a deer running through the forest with optional commentary. We have something called Movie Showcase which gives you the chance to show selected scenes for the high definition content. But you should question someone who brings you into their house to showcase the audio of a scene of a head bouncing down the staircase of a Mayan Temple.
There is an amazing featurette in high definition "Becoming Mayan: Making Apocalypto" which shows how they did the makeup, costumes and weapons for over 700 extras, all by hand; and how the filmmakers built a real Mayan city just for the movie. The makeup and costume design, especially of the jade ornaments, tattoos and scarification is one of the defining aspects of the movie. Also included on the release is a feature commentary by Mel Gibson and the Writer/Co-Producer Farhad Safinia.

Mel Gibson has already gone on record drawing many parallels between his film and recent political turmoil in the Middle East, specifically Iraq. And even on the back of the box, they go so far as to say that "the thrilling historical epic that will shock and awe you as never before, on Blu-ray Disc." Sony originally tried to use the war catch phrase as an advertisement for their PlayStation 3, but decided against it after public outcry. It seems as if they have slipped it in anyway. And appropriately so, because "Apocalypto" will shock and awe you. I, for one, don't think the movie needs to be that symbolic, and can be taken for exactly what it is: a wonderfully crafted story about a people who lived 500 years ago in what is now the Yucatan Peninsula. It follows in the footsteps of some epic movies that explore foreign cultures in this way, especially Roland Joffé's "The Mission" and Werner Herzog's "Fitzcarraldo." Gibson has created a movie that, in my opinion, stands side by side with "Passion Of The Christ" if one can possibly separate that movie from the religious icon that it has become and looks at it solely for artistic merits. Both films transfer us to a time and place so completely that it is difficult to describe to someone who hasn't seen the movies. Both are daring, iconoclastic and quite controversial. I hope Mr. Gibson continues making movies like these.