Combustible Celluloid
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With: Tadanobu Asano, Honglei Sun, Khulan Chuluun, Odnyam Odsuren, Amarbold Tuvinbayar, Bayartsetseg Erdenabat, Amadu Mamadakov, Ba Sen, Bu Ren
Written by: Sergei Bodrov, Arif Aliyev
Directed by: Sergei Bodrov
MPAA Rating: R for sequences of bloody warfare
Language: Mongolian, with English subtitles
Running Time: 126
Date: 03/18/2013

Mongol (2008)

2 Stars (out of 4)

The Big Khan

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Directed by Sergei Bodrov (Prisoner of the Mountains), Mongol does a lot of "sweeping." It moves from sweeping vistas to sweeping battles and when it stops sweeping, it really has no idea what to do; it merely waits for the next opportunity to sweep. Of course, most people like "sweeping." It carries with it an implication of grandeur and greatness, even if it signifies nothing. So far the film has received stellar reviews and even wound up with an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Language film. Inside all this impressive hugeness, we have the story of Genghis Khan, or the Genghis Khan-to-be, since this is the first part of a proposed trilogy. He's mostly called Temudjin (Tadanobu Asano). We meet him as a child (Odnyam Odsuren) in the year 1172 when his powerful father takes him to choose a bride. His choice offends another tribe and starts a war. His father is murdered and young Temudjin is hunted and hounded. He meets a young prince, Jamukha, and the two become blood brothers. He's captured and escapes (several times; I lost count) and during one escape, he finds his now-grown bride Borte (Khulan Chuluun). Then she's captured, and Temudjin and Jamukha (Honglei Sun) declare war to get her back. Eventually Temudjin and Jamukha have a falling out, and the final battle is between the former blood brothers, each with their own giant army. Bodrov depicts his Genghis Khan as a pure, innocent soul, driven to his violence and misdeeds only because of the harshness and cruelty of the world around him. Really, he'd just like to be left alone. If a hero is to deserve this much spectacle, he ought to be at least a little bit interesting. None of this matters, really. The point of a movie like Mongol is the battle scenes. Bodrov goes through the motions, copying bits and pieces from battle scenes past. It's a fairly complete collection, though his overall tone is polite and observant rather than reckless or exciting. It's more The Last Samurai than Seven Samurai. But these scenes are big enough and bold enough and "sweeping" enough that everyone will come away thinking they're really seen something. Also available on Mongol

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