Review: Мongol (Mongol: The Rise of Genghis Khan, 2007)

mongol01

It’s like Braveheart, only minus the Scots!

Written By: Arif Aliyev & Sergey Bodrov
Directed By: Sergey Bodrov

If you are looking for a historically accurate depiction of Genghis Khan and the ways of Mongolian life, then I suggest you look elsewhere. If you are looking for a movie with a lot of subtlety and nuance, then keep on a looking. But, if you are looking for a movie that is high on action in an epic atmosphere with tremendous visuals and a simplistic story that anyone can get into, Мongol is the movie for you. And yes, I was the anal retentive prick that used the actual Russian wording when my browser allowed me to, but you no longer have to deal with that. Genghis Khan was many things, the history books will tell you that. However, Мongol paints Khan, or Temudjin as the case may be, as quite the overriding sympathetic figure. Most likely this isn’t true, but it does help to create compelling cinema. Above all else, Мongol certainly is compelling and it does draw you into its world.

Мongol does look beautiful, creating amazingly stark landscapes and panoramas. When young Temudjin is running to the sky god Tengri in the snow is one such instance of the film using a stark backdrop to create a truly breathtaking look. The film is full of beautiful backdrops as well as brilliantly choreographed battle scenes. It makes good use of its slow motion and doesn’t overdo it as has become the movie making norm. Мongol also features some beautiful design work in the costume and hair department, capturing the look and feel of twelfth century Mongolia. Or at least what a white boy from the suburbs thinks twelfth century Mongolia would look and feel like.

The one major drawback to Мongol, and it is quite a doozy, is its lack of attention given to Mongolian culture. Sure, the battle scenes are great and it’s easy to create a great leader when all he ever utters are one line proclamations. But, that isn’t Mongolian culture, there is more depth to it than that. I know that Мongol is an action epic first and foremost, but a few sprinklings of true Mongolian culture here and there would have benefited the picture nicely. Without those droplets of culture we are left with a race of Mongol’s who do only kill and steal and appear to have no redeeming qualities whatsoever. I know that’s not the case, and you know that’s not the case, but I wish the movie would have tried to express that there was more to Mongolian culture than just violence and bloodshed. There is also the issue of young Temudjin’s many escapes, but since I believe the film was trying to say he was blessed by the Gods, I will chalk up the film not showing how he escaped to the theme of God protecting him.

At a time when historical epics appear to be dying out, Мongol breathes new life into the old bird. It isn’t the best by a long shot, and it certainly isn’t a movie without its faults. But, it is a great action epic on a subject that is rarely touched upon. Мongol is required viewing for the action epic fan who wants to see something else besides World War II Europe.

Rating:

***1/2

Cheers,
Bill Thompson

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