Sunday, November 30, 2008


Sergei Bodrov shows the rise to power of Genghis Khan in the Kazakhstan film "Mongol," visually impressive and depressing, pretty well acted, and well directed. It's a very grand spectacle, as both a foreign film and as a sort of short epic, historical and also quite personal. Also, it's quite violent and shattering. I was left really in need of some cheering up after this film. I was also left with a typical ending of a film with a sequel (well, actually, two sequels coming soon): no proper ending to suit. That added to my already steady qualms about the film. Tadanobu Asano, who I've learned from IMDB is a supposed cross between Johnny Depp and Toshiro Mifune, plays Temudjin, the man who would eventually become Genghis Khan. He's mistreated quite a bit in his life, always on the run, three times imprisoned, and he lost his father at age 9, where the film begins. In the beginning, he picks his bride, Borte. He tells her he will come back in 5 years, but he in fact comes back later. He still gets to marry her, but he soon loses her to the clutches of the angered man who Temudjin's father stole Temudjin's mother from. As a result, he asks for help from his acquaintance that he made his blood brother, Jamukha (Honglei Sun), to start a war over his wife. This is one of the many battles in the film, which are some of the weakest parts of the film, what with too much over-the-top action and blood spurting that doesn't look so realistic. When "Mongol" in fact succeeds is in the moments of contemplative landscape that are offered quite regularly by Bodrov here, and they set the scene: no lack of bleak set pieces to depress, and a rare smattering of green pieces to delight us for a little bit. When the film veers into its violent moments, the screen shakes with cruelty, but the audience is left only depressed and a little bit disturbed. But really, the hits outnumber the misses on the most part, and the cinematography makes you forget most of the other problems. B+

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