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4.2 out of 5 stars
Mongol: The Rise of Genghis Khan [Blu-ray]
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136 of 141 people found the following review helpful
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
...but considering the minimal budget (20 million dollars American) and the genuine Mongolian (some areas so isolated that new roads had to be built to get the film crews there) locations filmed, this was a fantastic movie that was well-paced for an introduction to the life of Temudjin, who would become the Genghis Khan.

Despite the low budget, nothing in the movie looks cheaply filmed; everything looks like that of a big budget film six times more expensive, from costumes to makeup (and the craggly dirt buildup on Temudjin during his time in captivity). I don't speak Mongolian, so I can't tell whether the accents spoken are accurately Mongolian, but for an American audience, it was great for authenticity (rather than having them speak Russian or Kazakh).

The movie excels in two particular aspects which really make this one more than just a casual ancient-world flick; the battles and the people.

While Genghis Khan is demonized in the West as a barbarous conqueror, he is seen like a hero in the East, and this movie serves to show him as both and neither, making him more than just black or white, but a fully fleshed out person with ambitions to uniting all the Mongol tribes as one beneath him. He is utterly believable as a human being, fallible, and seemingly very much driven by his love for his wife and children, whom he nevertheless must leave constantly to fulfill his dream.

There is also Jamukha, who manages to be both a piggish, slothy figure, and a noble, loyal friend to Temudjin, when their dreams conflict and they become enemies, with a very painful and realistic portrayal of just why Jamukha would betray Temudjin, and his lack of joy in facing his opponent on a field of battle.

Then there's the battles. As any Ancient/Medieval war movie to be expected, it is bloody. My only annoyances in a puritanic-historian way were the suits of armor, which seemed not to be made of much metal as they would have been in Mongolian times.

Another minor thing that becomes a little excessive, and arguably rather like a recurring joke is shots of blood, showing them being spilled in thousands of thick drops rather than in fountains or bursts of liquid.

The final battle sequence manages to both utilize the Mongolian expertise in archery and cavalry and innovate with something both insanely risky and never before seen in Medieval battle depictions. Likely seen in the trailer, as Jamukha sends the bulk of his cavalry force at Temudjin's center, he unleashes a very small number of thickly armored cavalry, armed with double curves swords, which then rush through the enemy cavalry, using the swords to slash at the enemy's sides like Scythed Chariots.

The armored cavalry is a kamikaze force, as after brutalizing the enemy cavalry, Temudjin has his archers unleash a flood of arrows on the force, killing the cavalry on both sides down to a man.

Overall a great movie, which doesn't sacrifice the macro-story of Genghis Khan and his dream of a Mongol empire for the micro-story of Temudjin's love life. Of which I wrote virtually nothing about.
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71 of 74 people found the following review helpful
Format: DVD
Recent Best Foreign Oscar Film nominee `Mongol' is an impressive epic. Telling the first installment of the life and times of Ghengis Khan, we get more than a history lesson, but a personal account of a fraternal feud for power. Filmed with breathtaking cinematography and a sound that should have garnered a separate nomination, the movie is a sweeping drama, complete with battles that make similar `300' scenes obvious digitalized formula.

Although the film goes ahead (mostly in chronological order) with several "One Year Later" and other useful captions, we lose ourselves in a story of one man's struggle for survival among his Khan and the love interests that shape, bind and beget tribal rivalries and aspirations. We follow the coming-of-age footsteps of Temujin (Tadanobu Asano) and his older rival Targutai (Amandu Mamadakov) who both strive for power and read the oracles of gods like Tengri, whom they beckon for help.

Some of the battles are Trojan-like in thrust. Temujin will spare no one for Borte (Khulan Chuluun), his lifelong love interest. Between his patient endurance and his love, Temujin becomes a leader who can match wills with any Mongol tribe. Going from tribal feuds to a far-reaching dynasty, the film chronicles the real human faces that made history happen.

Before becoming Khan, he must master the elements. Between the harshness of tundra to humiliation and hunger, the sharp edge of life known for bitterly cold winters, make or break the existence of people who rely on their armies, shelter, and horses to survive.

It cannot be emphasized enough how the lingering beauty of each frame is arresting enough to justify viewing this two hour and five minute film. Furthermore, the haunting audio accentuating tribal customs and battle scenes resonate with mesmerizing grandeur. Although being reserved is perhaps a cultural trait, I felt some of the scenes could have added a bit more zest to the acting, but much of the intensity is non-verbal and convincing indeed. Writer-director, Sergei Bodrov, deserves heaping praises for building such a tightly built drama and some truly exquisitely shot scenes.

Although released last year and up for 2007's Oscar jury, both the cinema and DVD releases came about this year, so it's not too late to hold 'Mongol' as one of the truly worthy epics and one of the best movies to come out all year.

A J.P.'s Pick 4.5*'s =Very Good-Exceptional HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
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45 of 49 people found the following review helpful
on October 11, 2008
Format: DVD
To say this movie is a historical documentary failure would be a shame. What it was to me was a film that was entertaining to watch, with an epic story that got you into the charactors. The cinematography was huge, with beautiful wide shots.
I went to the theater to see this flick not knowing much about it, and I looked at the audience from time to time, one gentlemen was on the edge of his seat! This movie was far better than any other movie about Khan that I've ever seen (including John Waynes). Nobody seems to care that other actors have played Ghenghis throughout the ages, which is to say that I don't know why people are upset a Japanese actor played the role. I thought he did an outstanding job.
I have recommended this film to friends, which typically I don't do and have'nt done in a long time.
I don't know if the DVD will have over-dubs, but the sub-titles were very easy to read in the theater.
I'm giving this movie 5 stars cause it's like an Asian version of Braveheart, which is'nt historically accurate but highly entertaining!
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on January 15, 2009
Format: DVD
The most pleasing part of this film, I thought, was the excellent cinematography. Kudos to Roger Stoffers and Sergei Trofimov for an outstanding job photographing this movie, making the most bleak of landscapes look stunning many times and adding some wonderful closeup shots of objects and faces.

It's not a bad story, either, although not one that will keep you riveted to the screen for the full two hours. However, I wasn't bored, either, although some of the action scenes looked too repetitive with very hokey-looking special-effects concerning blood splashing out of people in the battle scenes. It did not look real, but as if it were drawn. It's ironic in that the production values seem to be so high with a such a nicely-filmed effort, yet the action scenes are staged like a B-movie.

In a nutshell, this is the story of how "Genghis Kahn," who is "Temudjin" throughout the movie, spent his tough early life and how he became the famous warrior. We just see how many hardships the man endured to become who he was later in life. He was never referred to as Genghis Kahn which, I learned hear, is a title more than a name. That must have come later, after he had control of all the Mongol armies, which is where the film ends.

Many times, it's a not a pleasant existence for "Temudjin," who was marked man from the age of nine. We see him spend many lonely hours held captive in different places. The looks on his face are memorable. Odnyam Odsuren ad the young "Temudjin" and Tadanobu Asano as the adult "Temudjin" both had extraordinarily photographic faces.

One of the few problems I had with the movie were understanding "the rest of the story" as certain scenes ended abruptly leaving me (and I assume other viewers) wondering "what happened?" His friends, though, were fun to watch and his bride was a beautiful, kind and strong woman, as pictured in this movie. Actually, I found this just as much of a love story as a war epic, and the romance angle was far more dramatic. The devotion the lead male and female had to each other, and the faithfulness and loyalty were inspiring, to say the least.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Format: DVD
Kudos to Bodrov! What a movie: piercing and breathtaking as an invasion of mongols itself!

Having grown up as a Russian, furthermore, in Moscow in the Arbat neighborhood literally a two lane street from Mongol Embassy (on what used to be called Voevodin Lane, across school #69), I have always been fascinated with the Mongol culture. Frankly, what Russian wasn't after the three hundred year Mongol-Tartar yoke?!

This isn't the story of conquest, but a story of love, forgiveness, and detachment from the material. Before the great Khan became the man to take away others' freedom he had to find his own. Bodrov's movie is a close up on an undeviating flight of consciousness powered by personal ethics (operating from Kohlberg's highest stage of moral development, that stage in which a mind makes its own rules, balancing on the brink of enlightenment and sociopathy). Bodrov reveals the spirituality of the motive: "never betray your khan," i.e. the spirituality of integrity (in the sense of being true to your self, with any given "khan" being nothing more than a projection of one's Self with which one later identifies).

In Bodrov's interpretation, Genghis' military success seems to owe more to the integrity of his army and secularity of leadership (that did not impose its religion but only law and taxes) than to military acumen. The Mongol conquest, unlike, say the Crusades, did not seem to attempt to rob people of their psychological sovereignty but only of the attempts to possess that which doesn't belong to anyone anyway, in a kind of bloody spiritual detoxification and re-prioritization.
Who knows?! But what a beautiful interpretation.
Cinematographically, the movie has the best of that Dovzhenkesque (a school of Soviet cinematography) slow-motion focus on detail, exemplified in such visually and metaphorically rich scenes as; falling through the ice, from the snow-white surface of the day, into the murky underwater of the unconscious; the shamanic communion with the wolf essence; Khan's brother's spin-around-and-slide-into-the-sleeves-of-an-offered-sable-coat harmony of uninterrupted physical flow of a relaxed mind; etc, etc.

The cast and characters are amazing: Temujin's psychopathic calmness, Jamukha's face-saving mannerism of throwing back his head in demonstrative acceptance of "what is," Borte's inspiring beauty and non-interference with Temujin's existential trajectory (despite her obvious romantic attachments and preferences).

Bodrov's emphasis on choice - in Brother, in Mongol - reveals an existential commitment of his own, a commitment to finding the humanity of motive behind the inhumanity of action.

Pavel Somov, Ph.D.
[...]
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25 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on April 25, 2008
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
Beware this has the original Mongolian language but it is overlayed with a Russian translation - not a separate language track but Russian on top of Mongolian. There is no ability to select separate language tracks. There are no subtitles; I had hoped for English. I believe the DVD is a Russian product. At the beginning there are an endless number of trailers for Russian movies and you cannot fast forward, skip, or go to main menu.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on April 10, 2009
Format: Blu-rayVerified Purchase
This is the best movie I've seen in a long time. Gorgeous cinematography. Compelling and enthralling storyline. I put it in just to see if it looked interesting at 11:30 one night, and ended up unable to go to bed until it was over at 1:30AM. And then watched it again the next night until 12:15AM, it was that good.

The acting was great. The actors and actresses were beautiful, especially the kids. The wardrobes looked authentic to my unknowing eye. All in all I was shocked that I'd never even heard of this movie until a friend recommended it.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Format: DVD
This incredible movie places one of history's most crucial lives against a spectacular series of landscapes. Taken only for their visual grandeur, the deserts, mountains, river valleys, and forests of western Asia and and eastern Europe create a backdrop of unexcelled beauty.

Unexcelled beauty also describes Börte (played by Khulan Chuluun), the Khan's wife. This movie is filled with beautiful people, but she stands out even among that crowd.

None of that detracts from the story of Temudjin, who history knows as Ghengis Khan. It follows him from young childhood, through his unification of all Mongolia. The story traces his many setbacks - late bloomers of every sort, here's a guy you can relate to. It also describes his wife and his marriage; suffice it to say that a man as powerful and driven as him deserves an equal. An additional thread in the story, his lifelong friend and enemy Jamukha creates a complex and shifting complement to Temudgin.

I can't vouch for it's historical accuracy; I'm sure many liberties were taken with the literal truth. That hardly matters. Ghengis Khan's rise to power deserves an epic telling on a stage as wide as all of Asia. It gets that telling in this magnificent movie.

-- wiredweird, reviewing the theatrical release
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on April 6, 2009
Format: DVD
"Mongol" may not be the grandly epic tale of conquest that one would imagine the great Genghis Khan to have, but it takes the shell of the khan's life story and builds around it a portrait of life in the steppes. It starts with the humble origins of Genghis Khan as Temudgen, the juvenile son of a minor khan. When his father dies, he is labeled a threat by other players in the clan and is slated to die. Following a series of trying but miraculous events, Temudgen grows up and finds his betrothed Borte and takes his rightful place as khan of his clan. He sees the constant war between the clans and vows to unite all clans under a simple set of laws that would lay the foundation of the Mongol Empire.

It is no secret that "Mongol" takes many liberties with the life of Temudgen. Many characters are amalgams of multiple historical figures and certain events in the film are completely fabricated. It adds a level of drama to the film and provides an intriguing layer of suffering to Temudgen's life. If one were trying to watch an accurate historical drama, this film is not that. What it does accomplish flawlessly is the bare bones and beautiful culture of the Mongol nomads. Though it depicts a culture steeped in constant strife, "Mongol" shows the complexities of the Mongol politics and tradition. With swooping vistas and wide shots, the film's direction makes it abundantly clear how the desolate environment affects the people who live there. It gives the viewer a greater appreciation of the nomadic lifestyle.

While it fails to provide an accurate depiction of Temudgen's life or even his full personality, "Mongol" uses the legend of the greatest conqueror in the world to paint a picture of the Mongol people. Through all the battles and blood, the real story of "Mongol" is the never-ending struggle of the steppe, which is the most engaging.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on June 24, 2008
Format: DVD
There's a fine line between depictions of war and needless graphic violence, and thankfully, "Mongol" doesn't cross it. Yes, moments of this film are brutal and bloody, but they don't overcrowd the film. More than enough room is left for a compelling human drama, a story of love, commitment, and strength in twelfth-century Mongolia. The ads imply that "Mongol" is the story of Genghis Khan, but that isn't really the case; this is the story of Temudjin, the boy who would grow up to become Genghis Khan and conquer half the known world. It's about the person, not the myth, and that above all made this a worthwhile experience. Filmed in 2007 but just now getting an American theatrical release, Sergei Bodrov's film is sweeping in its visual and emotional beauty, with cinematography that borders on the sublime and a simple yet significant story.

It's the year 1172 at the start of the story proper, and at that point, Temudjin is just nine years old (Odnyam Odsuren). He and his father, a Khan named Esugei (Ba Sen), are traveling from the Steppes of Mongolia to a distant clan because the time has come for Temudjin to choose a wife. When they stop and meet with a different clan, Temudjin meets a ten-year-old girl named Borte (Bayertsetseg Erdenebat); they immediately take a liking to each other, so much so that, by the time he leaves, he chooses her to be his wife. The plan is for Temudjin to return in five years time, at which point the union can be made official. But things take a tragic turn--a rival clan poisons Esugei, and Temudjin and his clan are left at the mercy of a treacherous lieutenant named Targutai (Amadu Mamadakov). Now enslaved and with his father's property forcefully taken, Temudjin vows to someday avenge his father and murder Tergutai.

At around this time, a young boy named Jamukha (Amarbold Tuvshinbayar) rescues Temudjin from the desolate cold of the mountains. The two decide to become blood brothers, and right away you can sense the inherent tension in such a union; the cutting of flesh and the spilling of blood is a painful yet deep commitment to someone. Watching the boys drink bowls of milk laced with each other's blood, I sensed something more sinister was lurking on the horizon. You can tell this is true when Jamukha says that someday he'll be Khan and Temudjin will be his Second in Command. Even at a young age, Jamukha sees this union not in terms of loyalty and respect, but in terms of power. What's really interesting is that Temudjin was most likely seduced by the same lust, considering his transformation into Genghis Khan. Consider the moment he goes to the Sacred Mountain to pray to Tengri, the God of the Blue Sky: a lone gray wolf appears, symbolic not only of Tengri, but also of destructive power.

The story eventually flashes forward to the year 1186, at which point a grown Temudjin (Tadanobu Asano) escapes enslavement and reunites with Borte (Khulan Chuluun), who has been longing for his return ever since the day they met. Despite the fact that they love each other deeply, they're constantly driven apart by battle--sometimes Borte is kidnapped while at other times Temudjin is forced to leave her so that he can fight. The theme of loyalty comes into its own at this stage of the story: while Temudjin and Borte remain devoted to each other, Temudjin and Jamukha (Honglei Sun) have now divided themselves. The idea of friends becoming enemies is certainly not new, especially in stories of civil war and bloodshed. There is, however, a subtlety to their downfall that I greatly appreciated, a slow and steady unraveling that made it all the more believable. I won't delve too deeply into this, but I will say that Temudjin's belief that generous leaders gain a larger following is a wise one. This is something Jamukha doesn't seem to understand.

Some viewers might be disappointed that Temudjin doesn't actually become Genghis Khan by the end of this movie; it's not about his reign, but about his rise to power. There's a reason for this: "Mongol" is the first part of an epic trilogy. There's really no way of knowing how accurate this story is, seeing as Genghis Khan has generally been remembered as a ruthless warrior. "His history was written by his enemies," Sergei Bodrov said when interviewed, and I have no doubt that this is true. Many elements of the screenplay seemed to come straight out of a fable: a man who comes from nothing but gains everything; a woman who often finds herself in distress; a friendship that turns into a rivalry. It's hard to imagine something so formulaic being drawn from the pages of history.

This isn't to say that "Mongol" ever goes in the wrong direction. You watch this movie feeling utterly captivated by the story, the characters, and the look, all of which mutually benefit each other. Even the bloodstained battle scenes have a beauty of their own, albeit not in the conventional sense; slow motion shots of swords flying and blood spurting are expertly captured, pretty much to the point of seeming graceful. But at its core, "Mongol" is about the characters and how they love, hate, honor, and betray one another. As bland as that sounds, it actually helps a great deal because it allows today's audiences to relate to it, to understand why certain things happen. It's a shame virtually no one in the United States got to see this film a year ago, before it nominated for Best Foreign Language Film. It would have been wonderful to praise it along with the Academy.
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