Early reviews of Mel Gibson's ancient Mayan epic Apocalypto have praised its "blood-and-guts action", "breathtaking vistas" and "bruising beauty".
Apocalypto is set in the last days of the Mayan civilisation
Gibson's "remarkable" film - in which he does not appear - offers "hitherto unseen sights of exceptional vividness and power", said Variety.
The Hollywood Reporter described it as "a first-rate epic" while questioning its "over-the-top violence".
Maxim's Pete Hammond, meanwhile, said he was "blown away by the filmmaking".
Featuring a cast of unknowns speaking in the Mayan language Yucatec, Apocalypto views the decline of Mexico's native civilisation.
Its hero is a young native American, played by newcomer Rudy Youngblood, whose village is attacked by ruthless Mayan warriors.
It is Gibson's first outing behind the camera since his controversial 2004 religious epic, The Passion of the Christ.
The film's upcoming release was overshadowed by its director's anti-Semitic outburst during his drink-driving arrest in July.
In an interview this week, however, Gibson said his movie - which opens in the US on 8 December - would "stand on its own".
Last month Rolling Stone magazine described Apocalypto as "a tremendously exciting chase movie" that was "breathtaking to watch".
Gibson (right) won a best director Oscar for 1995 film Braveheart
"The guy knows how to make a heart-pounding movie," agreed the Hollywood Reporter's critic.
All the reviews have highlighted the film's "abundant" blood and gore, which includes graphic scenes of human sacrifice.
Variety, however, said the carnage did not feel "exaggerated or out of line in relation to the material".