So my excitement was palpable when I started watching Mongol. I was about to see how one man ruled nearly the entire Asian content for more than two decades.
Or was I…?
• In late 12th-century Mongolia, young Temudgin (Odnyam Odsuren), aka the future Genghis Khan, is choosing his bride at age nine with the guidance of his father and ruling khan, Esugei (Ba Sen).
• Later, Esugei is poisoned by an enemy tribe and dies, and his kingdom is ransacked by one of his lieutenants, Targutai (Amadu Mamadakov) – who vows to return when Temudgin is older and kill him to prevent the boy from getting revenge as an adult.
• Fast forward a dozen years, and we follow the trials and tribulations of adult Temudgin (Tadanobu Asano) – watching him suffer through slavery, the quest to reunite with his child bride Borte (Khulan Chuluun), his strained relationship with childhood “brother” Jamukha (Honglei Sun), and his quest for revenge against Targutai.
• You may be surprised to know that Mongol is not about epic battles and Genghis Khan’s domination of Asia. It plays more as drama than war epic, with long bouts of exposition and an underlying love story. Yet don’t be mistaken, there are several battle sequences between warring tribes, and they’re masterfully shot in all their impaling, blood-splashing glory.
• Russian-born director Sergei Bodrov keeps Mongol moving at a methodical pace, using unexpectedly deep dialogue (with co-writer Arif Aliyev) as well as sweeping cinematography by Sergey Trofimov and Rogier Stoffers of sprawling deserts, snow-covered terrain, and thick, green mountains – plus an incredible scene near the film’s end of Temudgin riding on horseback during a thunderstorm.
• Japanese film star Asano is a revelation as the adult Temudgin – bringing the commanding presence, piercing gaze, and steely reserve needed to take on such a larger-than-life historical figure.
• Mongol was nominated for (and won) a slew of international awards, including a 2008 Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Language Film.
As for the abovementioned absence of large-scale battles and one man’s domination of a continent, be patient…Bodrov is developing The Great Khan for 2010, with Asano and Chuluun reprising their roles. I can hardly wait.
Mongolian, with subtitles.
Rating: 3.5 stars (out of 5).
Will your kids want to watch it?I’m not sure if young kids will even have heard of Mongol, which is fine because it’s definitely not for young’uns: There is a lot of bloody warfare and one very audible sex scene shot in silhouette. That said, it’s nothing teens or even late tweens couldn’t handle.
Will your FilmMother like it?On the surface, Mongol may not seem like a date movie for you and the missus. But with strong female characters and an against-the-odds love story, she may actually enjoy it if she can handle the intermittent bloodshed.
Do not scorn a weak cub. He may become the brutal tiger.* Director: Sergei Bodrov
- Mongolian Proverb
- Mongolian Proverb
Mongol: The Rise of Genghis Khan
* Screenwriters: Arif Aliyev, Sergei Bodrov
* Stars: Tadanobu Asano, Khulan Chuluun, Honglei Sun, Amadu Mamadakov
* MPAA Rating: R (bloody warfare violence)
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