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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Mongol- Myth as History, 13 July 2009
This review is from: Mongol: The Rise to Power of Genghis Khan [DVD] (2007) (DVD)
Mongol is Russian director Sergei Bodrov's take on the early life of Genghis Khan (born as Temudgin), one of the greatest, and most bloodthirsty, conquerors in history. At age 9 Temudgin selects the girl who will be his first wife, looses his father to poison and is exiled from the tribe. The film then follows his trials through exile, capture and slavery until he wins the final battle to unite the Mongol tribes and becomes the Great Khan.

Some have suggested that the film sticks relatively close to know facts, but that does not mean it is reliable history. Great conquerors frequently reinvent their early years (Alexander the Great being a prime example), and indeed the film runs better as myth than history. As history there are too many gaps, too many dots not joined; for example, one moment Temudgin is riding alone into the grass lands, the next he has a massive army. But as myth it works fine; his miraculous escapes from captivity, his deliverance from a fall through the ice, his communion with the thunder god Tengri. And myths are supposed to be epic, and here the film is totally successful.

The film throughout has an epic quality. It looks beautiful and sounds beautiful. From tiny riders on the distant grass lands, to autumn colours, deserts, snow covered hills or ice lakes the various landscapes of central Asia are stunning and the film is a continual feast for the eyes. The opening reveal of the town of Tangut sets the scene for realism that never drops throughout the two hour running time. The music supports the visuals well without being strident. Yet, at its heart, Mongol is an intimate story that concentrates on three people; Temudgin, his wife Borte, and his blood brother and later enemy Jamukha and it is this which gives the film its heart amid the grandeur of its visuals. As Temudgin, Japanese actor Asano Tadanobu is simply superb. He is dignified, calculating, determined and not above using friends to achieve his ends. Yet his constant love for Borte and devotion to her children mean that we see Temudgin as a man, not a conqueror. As the strong willed and loyal Borte, Khulan Chuluun has a luminescent beauty that supports the story although Sun Honglei as Jamukha, clean shaven and sporting a mohawk amid the long hair and beards of the rest of the cast, could be in an another film entirely.

Mongol is old fashioned filmmaking. It is a sweeping epic which mainly rejects CGI effects to concentrate on believable character and the landscapes of Central Asia. It may not be history, but as a myth it works beautifully.

The Blu-ray does not disappoint. It does the incredible landscapes full justice showing off the widescreen photography in clean and detailed visuals. Skin tones are accurate, blacks solid, the range of colours throughout the seasons realistic. The subtitles are clear and contain no obvious spelling or grammatical errors. They are in white text, except for snow scenes when they are shown within a black background. The audio is Mongolian DTS-HD 5.1 (with a stereo 2.0 option). It is an excellent audio track that enhances the viewing experience, encompassing and immersive with clear dialogue. Extras include a reasonably interesting "making of" that runs just over 25 minutes and includes interviews with Sergei Bodrov, Asano Tadanobu and Khulan Chuluun plus some trailers.

Mongol is apparently the first of three films about Genghis Khan. It was nominated for best foreign film at the 2007 Academy Awards but lost out to The Counterfeiters. But if you like old fashioned epic filmmaking, presented on an excellent Blu-ray, this comes highly recommended.
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Location: Armidale, NSW Australia

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