Mongol (2008)
Mongol (2008)

Genre: Drama Running Time: 2 hrs. 6 min.

Release Date: June 6th, 2008 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Sergei Bodrov Actors: Tadanobu Asano, Honglei Sun, Khulan Chuluun, Aliya, Ba Sen, Amadu Mamadakov, He Qi, Ji Ri Mu Tu

 


 

A

n intricate examination of the life of Temudjin and his journey to becoming Genghis Khan, Sergei Bodrov’s “Mongol” awes with its gorgeous imagery, visceral battles, and powerful storytelling. But as epic as the film feels, particularly with its attention to details and its ample running time, it still leaves audiences with the desire for more – both in the flash-forward jumps in the ruler’s ascent and in his reshaping of a kingdom once such power is attained. And by the conclusion, it’s evident that Bodrov may have only scratched the surface.

While many have heard of the historic conquests of Genghis Khan, few probably know the story of his rise to power. In fact, no one probably knows the real story, as historical records of his early life are scarce and often conflicting. But here, a grand tale is told, with enough embellishments and creative liberties to portray an honorable leader and the deeds that shaped his eventual quest to unite a people. Whether or not any of it is true, the hardships, betrayals, vengeance, and warring in “Mongol” makes for entertaining cinema. The culture and customs of the Mongolian people remain genuinely portrayed, with traditions and presentations generating the authenticity required to believe in the legendary man and his perilous undertakings.

Though marketed primarily as an action-packed adventure, “Mongol” focuses heavily on the love story that envelopes much of Temudjin’s (Tadanobu Asano) young adulthood and the tumultuous relationships with other Khans that lead to many of the major conflicts he faces. Continually separated from each other, Temudjin and his wife Borte (Khulan Chuluun) must alternatingly rescue each other from dire situations, additionally suggesting that Borte’s strength and determination played an important role in the Khan’s decisions. Temudjin’s missions also bring him in contact with Jamukha (Honglei Sun), forming a collaboration that, through ensuing misunderstandings and backstabbing tactics, eventually fosters bitter enemies. Though the fighting again leaves him apart from Borte, Temudjin’s love transcends anything that might distance them. Revenge and betrayal also play heavily into his tortured upbringing, as numerous plotters routinely seek to destroy all that he has accomplished.

While bloody warfare and intense battles are certainly a highlight, the film’s strongest boon is the exceptional acting by a diverse group of talent. Asano gives a solemn, commanding performance as the Khan, plagued by ever more harrowing obstacles, to create a character that is at once sympathetic, alarming, and compelling. His unfaltering wife is played with compassion and authenticity by the understated Chuluun, while the scene-stealing Sun provides a villain marked by intelligence, malevolence, and bouts of amusing lunacy.

Reminiscent of the progression seen in Ridley Scott’s “Kingdom of Heaven” or Mel Gibson’s “Braveheart,” “Mongol” depicts the remarkable events that lead up to an even more monumental feat. At the end, audiences are left with only preconceived notions and a brief written epilogue to inform them of what historical impacts and occurrences are yet to come. The early life of Genghis Khan that Bodrov has envisioned is so fascinating that many viewers will want to see what happens next – but, despite rumors of a trilogy formulating, just a mere, sumptuous beginning will have to suffice.

– The Massie Twins

  • 8/10