Mongol is a stunning and breathtakingly epic movie, reminiscent of great filmmakers such as David Lean. The legend of Genghis Khan brought to the screen with the kind of majestic scope it deserves.
From Russian filmmaker Sergei Bodrov, Mongol tries to correct the story of Genghis Khan as presented in previous Hollywood disasters like The Conqueror and Genghis Khan. This fascinating look at Khan's early years begins with his birth as Temudgin in 1162. The story methodically follows him from his harrowing and dangerous childhood all the way to the infamous battles that defined him. Bodrov's portrait is also a love story, covering Khan's family life and marriage to Borte, the only woman who truly understood him and knew what he could become. One of the film's most successful sequences involves the abduction of Borte. Temudgin's desperate and ultimately brave rescue is a spectacular action sequence in which he penetrates the enemies' camp with thousands of horsemen. Eventually, he is set on a path to seal his destiny against his own blood brother, Jamukha. It's a conflict that results in Temudgin's slavery but eventual freedom to become Genghis Khan--the man who conquered more territory than any other warrior.
Cast not with an eye for stars, this telling of the Genghis Khan story has credibility going for it. Previous Hollywood versions have made the mistake of bringing in known actors such as Omar Sharif to play the role--and most notoriously, John Wayne famously butchered interpretation of Khan in 1956's The Conqueror. But in Mongol, after a worldwide search, Bodrov smartly cast Japanese actor Tadanobu Asano as the adult Temudgin, who makes Khan his own. As his blood brother Jamukha, Chinese actor Honglei Sun acquits himself well, while inspiration of inspirations, a real Mongolian actress named Khulan Chuluun makes for a beautiful and forceful Borte. The international flavor of the cast oddly seems to actually add authenticity to the production when logic would say otherwise. Perhaps that is the ultimate tribute to director Bodrov.
Sergei Bodrov is a powerhouse director. His previous films--including the acclaimed Prisoner of the Mountains and Nomad--do not prepare us for the breathtaking splendor and scope of Mongol. This is absolutely the kind of sweeping epic we might have expected from David Lean in his Lawrence of Arabia heyday. Even though the director did employ some CGI tricks for the massive battle scenes, the mix of technology and humanity is flawless. Key to his success is the human dimension of a larger-than-life story that keeps us involved with characters who are truly heroic and the stuff of mythology. Special mention should go to the magnificent cinematography of Sergey Trofimov and Rogier Stoffers, on a par with anything seen on the widescreen in many years. Tuomas Kantelinen's inventive score is another plus for the impressive film.
Hollywood.com rated this film 3 stars.