Award-winning Russian filmmaker Sergei Bodrov illuminates the life and legend of Genghis Khan in his stunning historical epic, MONGOL. Based on leading scholarly accounts, MONGOL delves into the dramatic and harrowing early years of the ruler who was born as Temudgin in 1162. As it follows Temudgin from his perilous childhood to the battle that sealed his destiny, the film paints a multidimensional portrait of the future conqueror, revealing him not as the evil brute of hoary stereotype, but as an inspiring, fearless and visionary leader. MONGOL shows us the making of an extraordinary man, and the foundation on which so much of his greatness rested: his relationship with his wife, Borte, his lifelong love and most trusted advisor.
First entry in a proposed trilogy, Mongol
vividly captures the beauty and brutality of ancient Mongolia. Beginning in 1172 and ending in 1206, Sergei Bodrov's Oscar-nominated epic presents future conqueror Ghengis Khan as more lover--and fighter--than diplomat. Against his father Esegui's wishes, nine-year-old Temudjin chooses his own bride, whom he marries in the years to come. Hopes for the future, however, turns to thoughts of vengeance when the clan forsakes the boy upon Esegui's death. While Temudjin (now played by Zatoichi
s Tadanobu Asano, a quietly commanding presence) makes his way in a cruel world, turncoat Targutai (Amadu Mamadakov) becomes the new khan. When an opposing clan kidnaps Temudjins wife, Börte (Khulan Chuluun), he eventually retrieves her, but betrays blood brother Jamukha (Sun Honglei, Seven Swords
) in the process, leading to further enslavement and more Kurasawa-style slicing and dicing. Throughout his travails, Temudjin comes to believe that Mongols must unite to share the same language, culture, and set of values. Sustained by his faith in the god Tengri and the devotion of Börte, Temudjin sets out to wrest control of Mongolia from Jamukha and his women and children-killing hordes. Except for an over-reliance on CGI during the climactic battle sequence, Mongol
equals the scope and grandeur of historical predecessors, like Braveheart
. If much of the cast is Chinese and Japanese, Bodrov, who directed Prisoner of the Mountains
, conjures up authenticity through detailed costumes, Mongolian dialogue, and remote Central Asian locations. --Kathleen C. Fennessy