Sunday, November 6, 2011

MONGOL (2007) - Don't mess with Genghis Khan

Mongol opens with a Mongolian proverb: "do not scorn a weak cub; he may become a brutal tiger." If only some of the Mongols who continuously beat, torture, and enslave the young Temudjin (Tadanobu Asano) would listen to their own proverbs. History reveals that the ten year old Temudjin grows up to be none other than Genghis Khan, the cunning, cruel and hugely successful emperor of the world's largest contiguous empire, an empire which he conquered by bringing down the wrath of god with his legendary Mongol army to any one dumb enough to resist him. This 2007 movie by Russian director Sergey Bodrov shows the amazing story of how a resentful young boy managed to outsmart those around him and overcome incredible odds to rule millions of people.

You think you had a bad childhood? Think again.
 During a trip with his father Esugei, the Khan (leader) of a local Mongol clan, young Temudjin chooses a bride from a nearby tribe, and sets back for home with their entourage. On the road back to their village, Esugei is poisoned by an enemy clan, and one of his father's own men, Targutai, betrays Temudjin, becomes Khan himself and destroys the family's home and steals their belongings. Targutai stops short of killing the boy, because of Mongol customs, but swears he'll be back soon to finish him off once he's grown. Now a slave, betrayed by his family's own soldiers, Temudjin runs away, but falls through a frozen lake. He's taken in by a group of traveling Mongols, where he befriends, and becomes blood brother to a boy named Jamukha.

Temudjin and his faithful wife Borte.
 As the years pass, Temudjin grows into a wrathful man (portrayed by Tadanobu Asano), thirsty for revenge for the betrayal and injustice that others have put him through. Over the course of several scenes, he will find and lose his beloved wife Borte, be treated like garbage by foreign tribes, sold of as a slave yet again, and will ultimately be forced to choose between being Jamukha's servant or forging his own destiny.

You win some, you lose some (and get sold off into slavery).
Everything about Mongol screams epic. The setting, with huge expanses of forbidding Mongolian steppes filling the screen. The ominous, foreboding score. The performances, especially from Tadanobu Asano who oozes ferocity and subdued anger from every pore on his face. The battle sequences, filmed with thousands of extras, hundreds of horses and with brutal combat shown up close and personal. Most of all, the story itself, which is ambitious enough to condense decades of the life of one of the most important figures in world history into a little over two hours and pulls it off with flying colors.

When kids had nightmares in the 12th century, this is what they dreamed of.
Sergey Bodrov has crafted a truly great movie in Mongol. Bodrov managed to seamlessly combine a gripping story, flawless action and drama, a good score, rich landscapes (the cinematography of the Mongolian steppe is just beautiful) and loads of history into a thrilling piece of film. The fact that Mongol is filmed entirely in the Mongolian language may be off putting to some, but it really shouldn't. Seeing Asano growl through his lines as Temudjin in his native language is like a window into the past to see the kind of man the real Genghis Khan might have been. It's a shame that Bodrov's planned trilogy has apparently been abandoned, because there's so much fantastic stuff that remains to be covered and deserves to be put to film. In any case, Mongol remains a great movie on its own, and I can't recommend it highly enough.

Best scene: The battle between Temudjin's and Jamukha's armies, with thousands of warriors filling the screen in one of the most impressive battles put to film this decade.

Best line: "Mongols need laws. I will make them obey, even if I have to kill half of them."

TL;DR - Thrilling portrayal of one of the baddest bastards to ever grace the planet - 9/10


  1. Looks like a really nice movie!

  2. i will def have to see this one. battle sounds epix

  3. Oh wow, this looks crazy.

    Why have I never heard of this movie before.