12 January, 2009
Writer-director Sergei Bodrov’s Mongol (2007) fell victim somewhat to a less-than-helpful advertising campaign at the time of its release, depicting the film as being largely about Genghis Khan's military conquests, but Bodrov's work (and an epic, impressive piece of work it is) in reality takes us through the life of legendary Mongol Emperor Genghis Khan from the age of nine until the battle that would cement his position in history, showing not so much how the man rose to power, but rather (and rather more interestingly) how he in fact gained the strength to become a world-beater.
Nine-year-old Temudgin (Odnyam Odsuren) is the boy who would be Khan. Riding to take a bride from a rival clan in hopes of establishing peace, Temudgin instead is smitten by a young girl from a friendly, much less powerful tribe, and tricks his father into allowing him to choose her instead thus guaranteeing continuing strife rather than peace.
Time moves on, and Tadanobu Asano (very convincingly) now plays the adult Temudgin. While having claimed his young betrothed, Temudgin’s life becomes no easier, as his enemies grow and every victory is marred by a corresponding setback. His life becomes an epic struggle, spurred by his conviction that the Mongol people need to be united under a single rule of law even if half of them must die...
The production values are dazzling, cinematography likewise, which makes full use of the stark, natural beauty of Mongolia and Kazakhstan. Asano is utterly convincing in the role of Khan, balancing the ferocity of his character with a sly sense of humor and a deep, deep devotion to his beloved wife Bortë (played with real verve by the gorgeous Khulan Chuluun). A word of warning - those expecting an action-packed, rip-roaring adventure are likely to leave dissatisfied, as there are in fact, stunning though they are, only a few battle scenes.
Be thankful instead that Bodrov has by and large succeeded in offering something rather more affecting – an inspired, gritty take on the man behind the myth.
Awards: Click here for details.
120 mins. In Mongolian and Mandarin.