So here’s a film that will probably appeal to quite a few people who aren’t me. I’m not a huge fan of epics. Generally they’re too… long. I mean, not only do they have extended running times; the narrative also unravels over a long timeline. Personally, I prefer films with a narrower focus.
That being said, Mongol is reasonably entertaining. It’s a stunning film to witness. The cinematography is fantastic, the locations are breathtaking, and the costumes are exquisite. The film crackles with a reality that’s sorely missing from most big budget, grandiose features of a similar ilk.
The film chronicles the early years of Temudjin – the man who would become Ghengis Khan and eventually set in motion events that would lead to the creation of the largest empire in history. What we see are the conditions in which he was raised and the events through which he lived, all of which presumably had an effect on the conqueror he would become. Basically… things were shit. The system of Khans that spread across Mongolia had a supposedly unbreakable moral code, but in actuality the tribes were constantly at odds, often finding loopholes in their laws, if not openly breaking them. As such, Temudjin (Tadanobu Asano) has those around him murdered, and is regularly captured, imprisoned and sentenced to death. All without a horse.
The horse is important, we’re told more than once. One cannot be a Khan without one, and once you see the barren, seemingly endless wastes these people have to cross, it’s understandable that our hero be wanting a steed.
The Temudjin presented here is one upon whom tragedy is thrust again and again. Through it all, however, his love for his Börte remains (Khulan Chuluun). As such, he’s portrayed as quite the hero. Comparisons with the films Braveheart and Gladiator wouldn’t be amiss. However, he’s also ruthless, and more than willing to sacrifice men for the greater good.
It takes a while, but once we get to the big battle sequence the film doesn’t disappoint. It doesn’t overly rely on CGI, and is all the more effective as a consequence.
Overall this is a brilliantly made film that I found a little boring. If the aforementioned Oscar-winning epics interested you, then Mongol will more than satisfy those cravings.Rating: