Mongol (2007) dir. Sergei Bodrov
Starring: Tadanobu Asano, Khulan Chuluun, Honglei Sun, Amadu Mamadakov
The Russians do big epic stories very well. Another fine edition to this legacy is “Mongol” the first of a planned three films on Genghis Khan. “Mongol” has all the ingredients of what Hollywood would have done with the project, epic fighting, brother vs. brother battles and a romantic throughline which spans almost 40 years. The Russian/East Asian fusion involvement adds the authenticity which Hollywood would never be able to create.
Before Genghis Khan, he was known as Temudgin (Tadanobu Asano), introduced to us as a young boy living the traditional nomadic lifestyle of the Mongols. Everything is bliss for Temudgin especially after he successfully picks his young bride-to-be at the traditional age of 9. After a violent attack from the evil Merkit clan Temudgin’s father is killed. The Merkit warriors want to kill the boy as well before he can exact revenge on them, but according to tradition (there’s lots of tradition in this film), he can’t be killed until he is ‘of age’. Instead he’s enslaved to hard labour. Temudgin eventually escapes and he begins a long search to reunite his bride Borto (Khulan Chuluun).
Temudgin gets help along the way from a like-minded ambitious prince named Jamukha (Honglei Sun). They become blood borthers, helping each other rid the lands of the Merkit dominance. But Temudgin’s love for Borto breaks tradition and he makes an enemy of his former brother. And it will take bloody limp-hacking battle to decide who is the king of the Mongols.
The only other Hollywood version of Genghis Khan was that forgettable 1965 version with Stephen Boyd, Omar Sharif, James Mason and ahem.. Telly Savalas. The difference between two version and is like the equivalent of those two “War and Peace” movies – the King Vidor/Audrey Hepburn Hollywood version vs. the authentic Sergei Bondarchuk 1965 version.
Well, it seems authentic enough from North American eyes. Temudgin is played by a Japanese star Tadanobu Asano. Though he’s not Mongolian he’s fantastic – a soft spoken leader who we see change from timid boy to the charismatic and legendary Genghis Khan. His rival and brother, a Chinese actor, Honglei Sun, is even better. He’s even more unemotive than Asano, but his steely-eyed stare and distinct mannerisms make a worthy opponent.
The time-spanning love story is the anchor which makes the film completely accessible to international audiences. Great epic pictures are able to shift between moods of romance to testosterone-fueled bloody carnage. And for adrenaline junkies the battle scenes satisfy what is to be expected from a film about one of the greatest military leaders the world has ever known. And it’s better than “Alexander”. Enjoy.
“Mongol” is available on DVD in Canada from Alliance Films