The film focuses on the early life and ascent to power of historical figure, Genghis Khan, who conquered and ruled most of the known world in the 12th century. In less than 100 years, he and his descendants ruled some 12 million square miles from the China Sea to the Mediterranean. The Mongol Empire was the second largest empire in history, behind the British Empire of the 19th Century.
Sergei Bordrov, the Russian director whose Prisoner of the Mountain caught our attention in 1996 has given us an epic that rivals, and in some ways surpasses, films such Ben-Hur (1959) , Spartacus (1960), Lawrence of Arabia (1962) Dr. Zhivago (1965), even The Deer Hunter (1978). Mongolís writing, multi-faceted personalities and studied performances separate it from most epics. The actors excel but the real star of the film is its setting and scenery. Filmed in Mongolia (also the language of the film), and on the still virtually untouched steppes of Kazakhastan and China, Mongolís sweeping landscape shots, gigantic battle scenes, even lightning storms, all set against an unforgiving desert, add a hypnotic, even eerie atmosphere. The filmmakers worked some 12 hours away from civilization so not only is Mongol an epic film, itís also a Herculean effort.
Computer graphics abound, but hundreds of real-life horses and trained Mongol riders make the battle scenes unlike any youíve ever seen before, or at least since Soviet director Sergei Bondarchukís massive, 8-hour War and Peace (1968). But there are only a few battle scenes in Mongol, and Bodrov has compressed this sweeping story into a two-hour movie.
Mongol, with all of its action and beauty, remains at core a love story. Japanese actor Tabanobu Asano plays the young Khan (or tribal leader), named Temudjin who one day would take the name Genghis Khan. Temudjin endured many years of hardship, flight and captivity, driven by revenge and the love of an amazing wife named Borte who not only aids him in his ascent to power but also serves as his primary advisor. Borte is played by Khulan Chuluun, Ďdiscoveredí by Bodrov in Mongoliaís capital city of Ulan Bator. She wasnít even an actress, just an amazing face and presence, but sheís the one who glues the tale together.
Few historical figures fuel as much controversy as Genghis Khan, even today. In Mongol we see him as a man, not a superman or a messiah. But heís a man of an iron will and spiritual vision who overcomes incredible odds to eventually reign as a conqueror who helped direct the course of human history.
Mongol, did not win the Oscar for Best Foreign Film, but it stands as one of the best actions movies Iíve ever seen, if not THE best. Itís currently only at the Ridgeway so catch it before it leaves. It gets an easy ĎA.í
Mongolís writing, multi-faceted personalities and studied performances separate it from most epics.