Reel Society

Reviews for the latest movies in theaters and on DVD.

Mongol

 
Review by David Tredler

Of all the many adjectives that can be associated with movies, “grand” and “life-sized” are certainly not among the less-appreciated. Genghis Khan’s destiny has always fascinated cinema, but this time forget John Wayne (whose career low probably can be ascribed to his role in 1956’s abysmal The Conqueror), and be ready to dive into a real Mongolian tale.

Sure, it is still possible to argue that what we see of the legendary Asian conqueror still lacks a few dark territories, but the ambition of the long-term film may be tackled in the near future... For Mongol is just a first step in director Sergeï Bodrov’s project to ressuscitate the great Khan in a cinematic trilogy. In this first film, the Russian filmmaker follows Temudjin, son of a Khan who personally witnesses his father being murdered, thereby forcing him to flee in the Mongolian steps, with the desire, one day, to come back, avenge his father and claim his birthright.

Mongol is not the tale of Genghis Khan’s conquests and war adventures. Slow-paced, eschewing pure action, Bodrov’s film is a construction on two sides:  the construction of a cinematogrpahic oeuvre, and most importantly the construction of a man whose name would become the stuff of myth. It is bold, because what you get here is the erratic journey of a child becoming a young man, the building of a character in roughness, blood and loss. It is a human tale in the midst of a fascinating land. It does not look to explore the shadows of Genghis Khan, since the man we watch is not the warrior of legend (yet). It is not a roaring adventure which scarcely leaves you time to breathe, on the contrary. It is full of pauses, silences, moments of contemplation, which are as much fundamental to Bodrov’s direction as the few moments of violence you expect from such a story.

The spectacle is only a beginning. Will there be a follow-up? Will it let Genghis Khan’s glory and darkness explode on the big screen ? To be continued...

3/5 stars

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