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Other reviewers before me saw this in Kazak language with English subtitles. My review is for the English version which was released in 40 US theaters this weekend. Only the greetings were in the Kazak language. Being a fan of Hong Kong flicks, I've seen my fair share of bad dubbing, and I could not tell that this was dubbed, period! Maybe it wasn't as most of the main actors are American. It was a wonderfully filmed historical epic that contains some minor ripoffs from Return to Snowy River, Gladiator and Musa(2001), but those scenes worked very well. If you're a fan of warriors on horseback this is definitely a must see for you. To be honest I wasn't expecting it to be so good, and the only reason I drove out of my way to see it was because Mark Dacascos was in it. He plays a menacing warrior and was definitely cast well as his character! Way to go Mark! The girls in this flick are pretty and their acting is well done! This film is definitely soft on the eyes and full of epic eye candy. They spent the 40 million production dollars well. The actors' performances were believable even the unknowns. My only complaint with this film is the 2 main heroes. You could tell they'd been trained well with sword fighting as I'm sure Jason Scott Lee and Mark helped out with that. But I really didn't think the two main heroes were cast well as Kazaks seeing how most everyone else in the film at least looked half Oriental including the Kazaks. Aside from that, I have no complaints and only praise for this foul-language-free and nudity-free sweeping historical epic shot on location which is a definite plus in my book!
Nomad is no different from American epics. Had the spoken language been
English instead of Kazakh, it would have been impossible to distinguish
this film from movies like Gladiator, Braveheart or Troy. It's just the
latest entry in an overused genre. Still, I enjoyed watching Nomad. It
entertained me for two hours even if I knew where the story was headed
to, and that's all I demanded from it.
Like so many other similar flicks, Nomad deals with a tyrant, the people he's been tormenting for years, and a "chosen one" who will eventually dethrone him. When he first hears of this, the cruel dictator orders that this child be found and immediately killed. Naturally, the attempt fails, and the boy is raised in a remote village by an old, wise father figure, a character clearly based on the Merlin/Gandalf/Obi-Wan Kenobi blueprint. As the years pass, our hero, named Mansur (Kuno Becker), becomes a skilled warrior, perfectly capable of leading his rebellious countrymen in battle against the evil monarch. While preparing for the conflict, Mansur also has to deal with his feelings for a girl and the effects said romance is having on his lifelong friendship with Erali (Jay Hernandez), a man willing to do anything for his country and, most importantly, his leader and best friend.
The themes explored in epics are generally love, loyalty and freedom, and Nomad covers all of them them in a competent but predictable way: anyone who's ever seen this kind of movie will have no trouble figuring out how the various subplots, not to mention the big picture in itself, are going to end. But while it isn't exactly fresh, Nomad is a respectable film, its main quality lying in the visuals: the battle scenes are as great and gorgeous as in a Ridley Scott film, and the same should be said of the numerous shots concerning the eye-popping landscapes. In fact, with so much beautiful imagery (although a bit more violent than the average Hollywood blockbuster), it's a bit weird not to find the Blade Runner director's name among the executive producers, which do however include Milos Forman (the man behind the fabulous Amadeus).
So, as usual, style prevails over content, but when it looks so good, why complain? Nomad is a piece of pure, simple, unadulterated fun; that's why I liked it, and the reason genre fans should embrace it as well.
If you've seen all the Hollywood blockbuster war films and are looking for more, this is an interesting period film with loving care put into costumes and sets. True, it didn't have a huge budget, but they clearly put a lot of time into it. If you only want blockbusters, you can skip this film. But if you want to see some history (and learn a little, too, if you're not Khazakh), then it's worth watching. It might be noted that Mansur appears to be an important historical figure for Khazakh - and a lot of their national agencies are listed in the credits. This makes it historical in more than one way - such a film probably wouldn't have been possible during the days of the USSR.
Certainly NOMAD has some of the best horse riding scenes, swordplay,
and scrumptious landscape cinematography you'll likely see, but this
isn't what makes a film good. It helps but the story has to shine
through on top of these things. And that's where Nomad wanders.
The story is stilted, giving it a sense that it was thrown together simply to make a "cool" movie that "looks" great. Not to mention that many of the main characters are not from the region in which this story takes place (and it's blatantly obvious with names like Lee and Hernandez). If movie makers want to engross us in a culture like the Jugars and the Kazaks, they damn well better use actors/actresses that look the part.
Warring tribes, a prophecy, brotherly love and respect, a love interest that separates our "heroes", are all touched on but with so little impact and screen time that most viewers will brush them aside in favor of the next battle sequence, the next action horse scene, or the breathtaking beauty of the landscape.
It is worth mentioning that there were some significant changes made to Nomad during its filming, specifically the director and cinematographer. Ivan Passer (director) was replaced by Sergei Bodrov, and Ueli Steiger (cinematographer) was replaced by Dan Laustsen. In one respect, Laustsen seems to have the better eye since his visions of the lands made the final cut that we see here. Definitely a good thing. However, the changing over to Bodrov as director may not have been the wisest choice. From what I'm seeing here, the focus is on the battles and not the people, which I sense comes from Bodrov's eyes and not Passer's. A true travesty.
The most shameful aspect is that this could've been a really fantastic film, with both character and action focuses. Unfortunately, the higher-ups apparently decided that action was what was needed and took the cheap (intellectually speaking) way out.
Even though I can't give this film a positive rating, it is worth watching simply for the amazing cinematography work. But that's all.
Overall, the movie is not bad, but, in my opinion, it could have been
I don't think that this movie truly exposes the theme of Kazak nomads and their 300-year struggle against Jongar (Oirat) aggressors. I'm quite disappointed here.
But for non-Kazaks, the movie can make a whole different impression. They may like it a lot, because of the 'freshness' of Central-Asian nomadic theme in the international cinema.
Let's wait for the American (international) version of the movie. I believe it will be in some ways different from the Kazak version.
P.S. For those in Kazakstan, I recommend to watch old Kazak-Soviet movies like "Batyr Bayan", "Jawshy" (Gonets), and "Qyz Jibek". These are one of the few movies that truly show the essence of Kazak nomadism and Kazak-Jongar wars.
I would argue that there weren't many genuinely original concepts,
other than simply shedding some light on Kazakh history. Basically a
live action, feel-good version of the Prince of Egypt cartoon, trading
Egyptians and Hebrews for nomadic Muslims. But that being said, it was
decent and crisp.
Filming locations seemed really great, like LOTR - The Two Towers without any need for CGI! As for rating/violence, it could have almost been PG13 in the US, but I liked this fact. It was a clean-ish film that likens back to the spaghetti western. No over-the-top violence, sex, swearing, or embellishing for the sake of a Hollywood audience. While this generally comes off slightly cartoonish, it was refreshing.
As for the language, I would swear that it seemed to be filmed in English and dubbed in Kazakh. In fact, I don't usually mind a dubbed movie (especially Spanish or Japanese for some reason), but half-way through this film, I realized there was an English audio track and switched it over, and I was more engaged.
The horse work was pretty amazing, I thought.
Again, overall, this film seemed to have all the filming quality of an expensive Hollywood movie, but brought a niceness that's less common in contemporary film (Note: guaranteed NOT to hold the attention of most American youth).
The reason I decided to rent this movie was because Mark Dacascos was
in this feature. It was not his worse role by any means but he was only
a Minor character, a slight disappointment for me on a personal level
but really it only added to the movie as he was key in character
development for the main cast.
So on to the movie.
The action was hit and miss. Some was absolutely wonderful, hold your breath type stuff,that generally was the one on one battles, some looked a bit weak. That said, this movie is no 300, relying strictly on action sequences to carry it. It had a great story to carry it along, some fantastic acting and beautiful sets. All in all a very watchable movie if you put aside the fact most of the characters where not of the ethnic background they represented. I had no problem putting that aside and just enjoying a great action/history flick for what it is: entertainment.
I am a huge fan of warrior movies. Some of my favorites are Braveheart, Troy, The last samurai and Gladiator. And after watching Mongol, which is absolutely awesome, and which i strongly recommend, i had high expectations from a Sergei Bodrov movie. But it was terrible, awful, even pathetic is not a strong word in this case. The whole movie i was waiting for something exciting to happen, but it didn't, then i was at least expecting a big epic battle at the end, but even that was a huge disappointment, just some random running around, waving with the swords... There are so many good warrior movies, this one is not one of them.
I saw this in passing at the video store. It caught my eye, and after reading the summary I was hooked. I got it home, and into the DVD player and realized it was subtitled. Dread initially came over me, as I generally do not like subtitled movies. However, this is one of the few exceptions. The movie was fantastic, and after watching it in the original language with English subtitles, I don't think I could ever watch a dubbed version. It was well acted, action packed, and pleasantly surprising. I was very impressed with Kuno Becker, Jay Hernandez, and Jason Scott Lee in this foreign language film. If you are interested in a Genghis Kahn like film, I highly recommend.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I write there is a spoiler, but actually, the story line is given up in
the first minutes of the film, as a prophecy (hate those. I cannot tell
the difference between a prophecy and a spoiler). And it is basically
the old Moses story: oppressed people - Saviour has born - baby escapes
death from evil tyrant - grows up, kicks his ass, takes his place.
The trouble is that instead of a noble cause, like freeing the slaves, there is only crass nationalism. The goal is to replace a foreign despot by a locally grown one... The Kazakh longing to the old days where local tribes ruled the world under the rule of... Attila. This dubious moral is reinforced along the film, where local tribes foolishly prefer freedom to unity behind the divine right leader. No doubt Kazakhstan's 20 year "president for life" was an influential and enthusiastic "sponsor" behind this film.
To the movie's credit, it is beautifully executed. Actors play well, action scenes are well done, Kazakh landscapes views are stunning, and costumes and historical rendering of nomadic camps are carefully made and convincing. There is even an exotic, non American centered scent to many scenes. These are the plus of the movie, for the scenario is entirely conventional, predictable and boring for anyone above 11. Dialogues, in particular, are indigent and inexistent, and characters are shallow to the point of being nothing more than a function (brave hero, loyal friend, loving princess...). The scenario, despite being conventional, manages to be inconsistent: the Kazakh are supposed to be submitted to the Jogars, so why on earth do those need to send spies, killers and invade them? The nomadic Kazakh king lives in a stone city... the Jugar warrior is about to storm the city, but stupidly offers a one on one fight instead, the evil king attempts to kill the prophetic child, but gives him many chances to save his life while grown up and having killed his best warrior. And so on...
In the end, it is a movie with a Politburo script and imagination, but executed with Hollywood knowhow. The best way to enjoy this movie is probably to mute the sound and enjoy the beautiful pictures.
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