Mel Gibson really seems to specialize in telling a violent story, but as a director he understands how to achieve his storytelling goals in a way that hooks the audience and gets them invested beyond the promise of violence. And while it is certainly graphic, this example is rooted in history, as the Mayans were never known to shy away from human sacrifice. There is just enough exposition to get you rooting for the main characters before the raid begins that sets the hero on his journey to escape captivity and return to his family. Gibson directs this with grace and care, proving that while his character can certainly be questioned, his artistic sensibilities in the director’s chair cannot. The set design, make up and sound are exquisite, giving us a very detailed and intense look at a lost civilization that had very high peaks and very low valleys. I may be reading too much into it, but something could perhaps be said for the decision to add the Spanish (Christian) conquistadors to the finale, as it could be Gibson’s way of asserting his own idealogy’s superiority over the more primitive world. However, major points should be given for not whitewashing the film. It is entirely spoken in true Yucatec Mayan language and subtitled, which is a risky choice when trying for commercial success in America. Everything on display has a strong air of authenticity to it, and it is a wonder to be plunged so deeply into a fully-realized world that we otherwise couldn’t imagine. From a story perspective, it is simple enough to be believable and you want to see the main character succeed. A sprawling, epic adventure in the truest sense, Apcalypto is a strong film that I’m glad to have finally seen.