The Maya Are Us

Mel Gibson's latest film has a lot on its mind

The dim past--that place where the mindlessly cruel and the idealistically aspiring meet in vicious conflict--has been good to Mel Gibson. It brought him Oscars for Braveheart and hundreds of millions of dollars for The Passion of the Christ. It satisfies his directorial bloodlust and permits him to traffic in easily read moral metaphors about the issues of our own day.

Apocalypto, set in 16th century Latin America, is more of the problematic same. By dawn's early light, a brutish Maya war party falls upon an Edenic jungle village--murder, rape and enslavement their goal. Among their captives is Jaguar Paw who,...

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