Monday, July 14, 2008

Review - Mongol

Genghis Khan was one of historys most powerful leaders and throughout his reign, conquered nearly half of the world. Mongol is a epic historical recreation of the first half of the feared rulers life. Mongol, instead of focusing on the more known "evil" Khan, follows a young Temudgin (Genghis Khan's birth name) in his rough beginnings as a slave into a inspiring and visionary leader.

Directed by Sergei Bordov, Mongol, is an aboslutely stunning account of the first half of Temudgin's heroic life. Mongol excels at telling the multidimensional development of Temudgin into the future conqueror. This film deserves the hype that has recently surronded it since its Foreign Academy Award nomination. It is a great historical piece of film that has a purely graceful score, riveting locations, and an amazing story that beautifully interweaves amazingly choregraphed battle squences and a wonderful love story of Temudgin's one true love, wife, and closets advisor, Borte.

Mongol has the most beautiful cinematography of 2008. The gripping and immense landscapes that are utilized are breathtaking. Filmed in Kazakhstan, China, and Mongolia, every location used throughout Mongol had my eye wandering, looking and studying the beautiful scenery within it. These vast deserts, snowy plains, and endless grasslands gave way to some amazing shots of the Mongolians riding on horseback, fighting in visicous battles, and some more touching moments of Temudgin and his wife Borte. Ultimately, the cinematography and locations helped to ignite this beautiful tale of action and emotion.

Mongol does some of its best work within the love story between Temudgin and Borte. Temudgin meets Borte at the age of ten and convinces his father, against his better judgement, to allow him to marry her. This decision has a dramatic impact on the rest of young Temudgin's life and ultimatelty creates an inner-fire within the young boy. Throughout all of Temudgin's life he deems Borte as his closest friend and counselor. This dvelopment of the film is extremely moving and really changes your perspective of Genghis Khan. Furthermore, the love displayed on screen is heartfelt and really helps move along the emotion of the film.

Tadanobu Asano, who plays Temudgin, is thrilling and deeply inspirational throughout the film. Odnyam Odsuren who played the young Temudgin is also equally as good. Both of these talented actors help to create the multilayered character and give him the preception of the strong will that Khan is known for. Borte's character, played by Khulan Chuluun was also absolutely marvelous. The two of them together give some really endearing moments and really add a whole new dimension to the overall enjoyment of the film.

As you would expect, Mongol is not short on action either. The action evoked on screen is absolutely captivating. I truely enjoyed every battle sequence and felt that it was some of the better ancient battles I've seen since Braveheart. Similar to Braveheart, the emotion that Temudgin has is hypnotizing, and really ties the viewer to him and his people's plight. The battles are edgy and viloent and there is no shortage of bloodshed either. They are done with a stylized feel and are perfectly placed throughout the film to keep the viewer engrossed. Two films that have done a fabulous job with the same mix of true emotion and action, coming to mind watching Mongol are, the previously mentioned Braveheart and Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. Like them, Mongol has a perfect balance of love story and gripping action.

The biggest downfall of Mongol, and what I could not get away from, was the jagged or choppy feel to the storytelling. The scope of Mongol is extremely large and it only covers half of his life. The magnitude of this story, made it tricky to keep the film from feeling like it had huge chunks absent from it. The film covers twenty to nearly thirty years of Temudgin's development and there are parts ommitted that span years of his life, leaving major holes in the storyline. This made certain parts of the film confusing but more importantly, made the story feel incomplete. The film is 126 minutes and could have at least stretched another 45 minutes without feeling too long. I actually felt the film was too short, especially with the missing storyline. This ultimately hurt my overall rating on the film and made me feel like I had only watched the first part of film. Furthermore, it remined me of watching a "R" rated film that had been cut for regular TV, leaving crucial plot points gone.

Finally, Mongol is an amazing account of the first half of Genghis Khan's rise to power. It does a phenominal job of intertwining the emotion of Khan, his love for his land and people, and the courageous warrior he had within him. The cinematography is stunning and the score is perfect. If the film could have solved its omissions in the storyline, it would have been far better, but the product is still a very well done piece of film. Mongol strecthes the boundaries of what we knew about Genghis Khan and puts wisdom to the quote, "Do not scorn a weak cub; he may become a brutal tiger."