Mongol: The Rise of Genghis Khan (2007) Poster

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The Making of Genghis Khan
janos45123 May 2008
Astonishingly, the name and the person of Genghis Khan in Sergei Bodrov's "Mongol," a great, Shakespearean drama about this seminal figure in history, don't appear until the very end of the two-hour epic. Instead, we see Temudjin, the man yet to become (posthumously) Khagan (emperor) of what was to be for several centuries the largest contiguous empire in history. Whether Bodrov completes the contemplated two additional chapters of the story or not, "Mongol" stands on its own as a masterpiece.

Contradicting the Western (and Russian) image of Genghis as the monstrous conqueror, Bodrov's work is influenced by Lev Gumilev's "The Legend of the Black Arrow" and is based on "The Secret History of the Mongols," the 13th century Mongolian account, unknown until its re-emergence in China 700 years later. For a director, who learned in school only about the horrors of Russia's 200-year subjugation by the Mongols, taking a "larger view" is a remarkable act.

Unlike Omar Sharif in the 1965 Henry Levin "Genghis Khan" or Takashi Sorimachi in Shinichiro Sawai's disappointing 2007 "To the Ends of the Earth and Sea," Tadanobu Asano in Bodrov's film is strictly Temudjin, not the great Khan. He lived from 1162 to 1227, and "Mongol" covers the years between 1171 and the beginning of the unification of Mongolian tribes around the turn of the century.

In fact, the spookily powerful child Temudjin (Odnyam Odsuren) dominates the first part of the film, undergoing trials and tribulations that make the lives of Dickens' abused and imperiled children look like a picnic. From age nine into his 30s, Temudjin was orphaned, hunted, imprisoned, enslaved, and constantly threatened by extinction. Literally alone in the vast landscape (brilliantly photographed by Rogier Stoffers and Sergei Trofimov), Temudjin escapes death repeatedly, at times almost mysteriously.

"Mongol" is huge - with endless vistas and epic crowd scenes, quite without special effects - but Bodrov keeps the setting just that, never strutting visuals for their own sake. The film is about people, and the cast is magnificent. Asano's face and eyes hold attention, and make the viewer experience simultaneous feelings of getting to know the character he plays and being held at arm's length. Bodrov and Asano escape all the many Hollywood pitfalls in making an epic - they present nothing easy, predictable, trite. The term "Shakespearean" is used here advisedly.

The Mongolian actors are sensational: Khulan Chuluun is luminous as Borte, Temudjin's wife; Borte's 10-year-old self, the girl who chooses Temudjin, then 9, while he thinks he is the one making the decision, is unforgettable, even if the name is hard to remember: Bayertsetseg Erdenebat.

Chinese actors are vital to the film. As Temudjin's father (poisoned by Tatars before the boy reached 10), Sai Xing Ga makes an impression few actors can achieve in such a brief appearance. Nearly overshadowing Asano is the grand thespian exercise from Sun Hong-Lei, as Temudjin's all-important blood brother Jamukha. Sun is almost too big for the big screen, perhaps a less intense performance would have served the film better.

Another problem is near the end of "Mongol," with Borte's stranger-than-fiction (and actually fictional) rescue of Temudjin from a Tangut prison, years, hundreds of miles, and impossible alliances and dalliances telescoped into a few near-incongruous minutes - all to cover a 10-year-long gap in Genghis' history. Except for that, however, Bodrov's work is engrossing, spectacular, and memorable.
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Look up your history before you knock this
Thesquiddemuerte9 April 2008
To the above two comments.

You know how they say history was written by the victors? That's true for everyone but the Mongols. Most of their history was written by the Chinese, Russians, Arabs, and other conquered peoples who had an interest in perpetuating Genghis Khan = bloodthirsty savage.

The movie is based on one of the few sources about Genghis khan written in Mongolian. It's called the secret history of the Mongols and was written shortly after he died as a record for the Mongolian royal family. He was just a chieftain's's son of a very minor tribe. That's what makes this story so impressive, he didn't start out as a king or a prince with a huge army, like Alexander. Everything he had, he had to earn. He didn't get to be Genghis Khan until he was in his 30's. He was always aware of how victory wasn't assured but had to be paid for with planning and strategy. He wasn't a saint by any means but he wasn't an unthinking savage. This movie is actually meant to be the first in a trilogy with the second one probably detailing his conquest of north china and the third the conquest of the Khwarezim empire in Iran and Afghanistan.

This is an approach that I like because the Alexander movie died on account of it trying to condense all of his conquests into one movie.
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An epic vision that works better as a work of fiction
movieman4308 May 2008
Sergei Bodrov's Mongol provides something of a biography of the early years of Genghis Khan, at this point known as Temudjin. The film is destined to be historically flawed as there is little known about his life; this being said, Bodrov takes large handfuls of creative license. Bodrov's Mongol attempts to capture a man's rise to power in just two hours without making a rushed film; this impossible feat is Mongol's only true shortcoming.

Mongol is very much a "based off a true story" kind of movie. We certainly aren't seeing the true Genghis Khan. The film is riddled with historical inaccuracies, he is captured three times during the film, in reality he was only captured once. However, historical accuracy is not Bodrov's intent. Sergei Bodrov, grew up in the Soviet Union, a place where Genghis Khan is painted as a vicious killing machine. Mongol attempts to humanize him. This is the film's strongest point.

Mongol is just a good love story. Temudjin picks a bride at age nine named Börte and is set to wed her in five years. Soon after his father, a Khan, is killed. Betrayed by those his father used to command, Temudjin is left with nothing and swears to take it all back. This is the basic premise of Mongol. The relationship between Temudjin and Börte is portrayed as beautifully simple love. The film uses this connection to move the plot rather than bloody violence. Mongol does, however, contain several spectacular battles. Bodrov seems to have taken a page out of 300 and we're given a splattering of death sequences that while all together different feel and are shot similarly.

The largest flaw of the film is it's continuity. Bodrov, in order to condense the story under 120 minutes constantly cuts scenes in half. He will start a conflict and cut to it being over, leaving the audience to infer what happened. This is a double edged sword, on one hand it frees up time for necessary character development, on the other it makes the film feel choppy. Mongol is one of the few films that should be 15 minutes longer.

In the end, Sergei Bodrov's Mongol is an epic war film that succeeds not only on that level, but as a beautiful love story. The breathtaking landscapes of Mongolia provide an awe inspiring backdrop for the action on the screen. Mongol is a film of proportions not usually seen in Russian or Asian cinema. It delivers on a level that rivals if not surpasses many Hollywood blockbusters while keeping surprising heart evident throughout the film. Mongol truly is an inspiring film not only for the eyes.
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Beautifully Filmed Historical Epic.
dt1011128 November 2007
While the plot contained some dubious twists and had rather strange and slow pacing, the overall effect of this movie is stellar. The cinematography rivals, while being similar to, movies such as "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon". The score was amazing. The acting was, to my English speaking eyes and ears, convincing. The few combat scenes were filmed and choreographed to great effect. I am not sure how historically accurate this movie is, but it works as an enchanting piece of cinema. Highly recommended to anyone who likes art films and historical epics. Seriously, the locations make me want to take a vacation to the steppes immediately.
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Epic Movie, Leaving me wanting to Learn More
Jamester8 September 2007
Warning: Spoilers
One sign of a strong movie for me is that after the movie ends is that the story engaged that I want to understand more about the characters. This did it for me. I'm ready to research and read more about Mongolia's history.

Before I went into the Toronto International Film Festival screening of this movie, all I knew about this was that it had something to do with 'Genghis Khan' -- the leader of Mongolia at its height, So here I am thinking -- it's the life of Genghis Khan, warring, fighting, and so on and so forth.

But this is where the unexpected pulled apart. What I really liked were the human touch elements: you got to know of the khan (leader of a general group/tribe in Mongolia) through the events that surrounded him: assassination, jealousy, wife-stealing, loyalty, and lawlessness. His motivations to unite were sprinkled throughout the events that surrounded his life. His humanity shone through nicely. And instead of a series of fighting scenes, the highs and the lows really made for a very full movie.

Check it out if you have the opportunity to do so as it may not get wide North American release.

The director was present for this and he proclaimed it took 4 years, 600 people (production, I presume), and 1000 extras to come up with this very large yet very accessible epic drama! Wow! Sometimes bleak landscape, yurts, and the Mongolian steppes provide the right backdrop against an awesome sound-track for this very human tale.

Great work! Highly recommended.
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"Do not scorn a weak cub . . ."
Red-12515 May 2008
Mongol (2007), was co-written and directed by Sergei Bodrov. It was filmed in Kazakhstan, and is in Mongolian with English subtitles. It's a biography of Ghenghis Khan, especially his rise to power. The movie quotes an old proverb: "Do not scorn a weak cub; he may become a brutal tiger." Actually, as portrayed in the film, Ghenghis Khan was hardly a weak cub, even as a young child. However, he certainly became a tiger when grown--whether brutal or just powerful is another question.

The film is more or less consistent with the Wikipedia report of Khan's life. He was captured and enslaved as a boy, but managed to escape and eventually conquer his local tribal enemies. (The movie portrays Ghenghis Khan as a young boy and then a young man. The film ends before we can see Khan's eventual consolidation of his huge empire.)

There is (literally) a cast of thousands. The movie is colorful, the battle scenes are graphic, and men, women, and horses all look great. The acting was excellent, especially that of Odnyam Odsuren as the young Ghenghis Khan, Tadanobu Asano as the grown man, and the beautiful Khulan Chuluun as Börte, his wife.

For political and/or esthetic reasons, Khan is portrayed as a man who brought the warring Mongolian tribes together, and as a lawgiver and just ruler. I don't have enough knowledge of the period to know whether the people of his empire would have taken this view. However, this is a movie, not a Ph.D. dissertation, so I accepted it as an action-filled and enjoyable--if not profound--film.

We saw this film at the excellent Rochester High Falls International Film Festival. Because of the sweeping nature of the battles, and the glorious shots of the landscape, this movie will lose a lot on DVD. Try to see it in a theater, preferably one with a large screen.
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Weak on writing, but gorgeous to watch
Delmare25 July 2008
The first installment of a prospective trilogy, Mongol chronicles the early life of Temudjin, from his childhood on the Asian steppe to his ascension to Khan in 1206.

The performances are passable – with special thanks to Honglei Sun, with an engaging turn as Temudjin's long-time friend and ally Jamukha – but the film has a rushed quality to it that is predominantly the fault of the screenplay. We jump too quickly from one scene to the next, the tension is constantly disrupted, and the characters are, for the most part, one-dimensional, void of quirks and personal histories and any of the other qualities that might make them relatable. I'm not asking for anything fancy: theirs was a tribal culture constantly engaged in the act of survival, and any philosophical rants or emotive confessionals would feel forced and inorganic, but none of that pardons the film for the simple crime of not giving its characters enough to do. The needs of the plot seem to dictate their actions, rather than the needs of the characters driving the plot.

The biggest casualty, as always, is the love story. Ironically enough, Temudjin and Borte generate the most chemistry when they meet as children, Borte commanding him – with a freeness of spirit that gets less and less visible as the movie progresses – to pick her as his bride. Unfortunately, their subsequent romance is more about desperate rescues and long-winded goodbyes than it is the simple moments of intimacy that make a relationship believable.

That said, the cinematography is tremendous and the costumes top-notch, and the casting department deserves a couple extra bushels of brownie points for picking actors who – unlike many a Hollywood ensemble – look like they could actually survive the conditions they supposedly inhabit. The combat scenes are captivating and cleverly shot, and despite the inevitable comparison to such battle-heavy epics as Lord of the Rings and Gladiator, Bodrov keeps a handle on things, never letting any of the battles run beyond the five minute mark, endowing the film with an element of realism and restraint where many of the other so-called epics go completely over the top. True, the movie relies a bit more heavily on CGI than I would prefer, but the Mongolian landscape, the real star of the show, is so gorgeous, so demanding, so jaw-droppingly authentic that we quickly forget our visual grievances and get lost in the rudimentary act of watching.

A pity we can never lose ourselves completely.
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Great film
Laurie Duncan11 September 2007
I saw this last week at the Toronto film festival and loved it. Many of the people in my group did not want to see it because they were not interested in the subject matter and ended up loving the film. It seemed to be the overall favorite of the group (we saw 12 films in Toronto). There is a fair amount of blood so if one is bothered by violence, you may not enjoy it. In some ways it reminded me of Braveheart because you learned about the history, but there was also beautiful cinematography, landscapes, and very well done battle scenes. This film could possibly be in the running for the best foreign film Oscar.
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More than just an epic war tale, deserves a standing ovation.
shiva roy21 March 2008
This film is an example of an extremely strong narrative accompanied by excellent cinematography and superbly executed war scenes... reminds me of Saving Pvt Ryan without all the bangs and clatter. The acting is also commendable. There seems to be a great deal of research that has gone into the subject and is a great eduction on the early life of Chengiz Khan. I wish there was more, but for the integrity of the subject I think the makers have done justice to the story. Would really appreciate if this made into a trilogy, but I don't think the film makers have left any scope to stretch it further. They have compressed a epic life tale into a little more than an hour and a half and with great flair and ease which is calls for a standing ovation. Lesson to Indian Film makers!!!
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To the right of who?
Chris Knipp29 June 2008
'Mongol,' the Russian-directed semi-historical epic (big emphasis on the semi- here) shot for $20 million in China (and Mongolia and Kazhakistan) with a multi-national cast and crew and Japanese and Chinese stars, purports to depict the first thirty-five years of the life of the emperor Genghis Khan. I say "purports," because not much is known of this period and even in depicting legend, Bodrov chooses to leave out many of the essential connectives that make a good story (or fairy tale or legend). Temudjin, as the young super-Khan is called, is a yoked prisoner, for example, awaiting execution; then, inexplicably, the yoke is off and he's free. He sinks through thin ice deep into the frozen water below; then, inexplicably, he's lying on land and getting rescued. He is languishing in a Chinese prison--his face seeming to acquire a patina of dust and sand (I liked that part: Bodrov excels at faces and tableaux); then he's miraculously found by his faithful wife Borte. She throws him a key and sets him free. Then, inexplicably, he is leading a vast army to defeat his arch rival. Over and over, how we get from point A to point B is left on the cutting-room floor. This is enjoyable as spectacle but unsatisfying from other standpoints.

How Genghis Khan got to be Genghis Khan, in short, is one thing this movie doesn't begin to try to explain. Could anyone? That I don't know; but 'Mongol' presents its biographical narrative without the connectives that make sense of a life. Despite lots of dramatic scenes with snappy dialog, striking images, and above all computer-assisted battles with crunching bones and crackling arrows and ringing swords, the film has an epic style without epic themes because its great issues are not so much resolved as abruptly, magically removed. This may in fact be more an epic love story than anything else. It is that in the backhanded way the 'Odyssey' is a love story, because, though Temudjin is away from Borte a lot of the time as Odysseus is mostly away from Ithaka and Penelope, 'Mongol's' opening sequence gives Borte a primary importance, because she (as played by Bayertsetseg Erdenebat), belonging to another tribe, a liberated young woman of the twelfth century, isn't chosen by but chooses Temudjin when he's nine years old and she's ten. It's not supposed to be that way--and maybe it wasn't; it seems a bit implausible. Temudjin is traveling with his Khan (tribal chieftain) father (Ba Sen) on their way to placate another tribe by choosing the boy's wife from their girls. When they don't, the father is promptly poisoned by the other tribe. And its leader, Targutai (Amadu Mamadakov), vows to kill Temudjin--but not for a year or so, because "Mongols don't kill children."

Well, what Mongols do or don't do seems up for grabs, and probably at the time, historically, "Mongol" itself must have been a rather vague concept. In fact that is another running theme: what's a Mongol? What are their primary values? There is no satisfactory answer, though killing and stealing are advanced as major concepts.

Surprisingly, since not too many are "to the right of Genghis Khan," and since he succeeds in wiping out all his enemies, Temudjin as played (as an adult) by the imposing Tadanobu Asano is a gentle-faced, zen-like fellow who's a strong advocate of fair play. Tadanobu, along with the somewhat over-histrionic Chinese actor Honglai Sun as Jamukha, his childhood blood brother and eventual arch rival, are both impressive. But the real star, with some substantial help from computer-generated effects, is the vast landscape of steppe, snow, mountain, and sky that dominates many scenes. With effective use of lenses and light, the filmmakers have created an epic look, and it's this, plus the authoritative acting, that make this film worth viewing--but only if you like this kind of thing and if you don't mind that you're not going to emerge from it with any historical knowledge. Said to be the first of a trilogy. One will approach the sequels with a certain reserve.

Shown as part of the San Francisco International Film Festival April-May 2008 and in US theatrical release June 2008.
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Great primer for a international audience unfamiliar with Ghengis Khan
excranz10 December 2007
Saw this flick last night and I really loved it. As I understand it many Mongolians hate the film for historical inaccuracies and a heavily accented cast (the lead is from Japan) but if you are unfamiliar with the area and culture you'll find a great story that brings a new light to a historical figure that a surprisingly large portion of the world reviles.

The cinematography is gorgeous and the subtitle script is excellent.

What really makes this film great are the performances and the action scenes.

When he gains followers and unites Mongolia you understand why.

Hopefully the film will get people to read more about the original man and discover the historical inaccuracies.

Of course as historical accuracies go it much more accurate then Elizabeth: The Golden Age.
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"The Lord of the Mongol Gladiators"
stefano14888 June 2008
Warning: Spoilers
I went to see the film yesterday, eagerly expecting to learn something more about the man who probably was the greatest military and political leader of all times, and who is relatively little known in Western Europe, and even more so in such a provincial country as Italy. I am aware that one shouldn't expect films to be history essays; but then a great film about historical figures should be able to deliver an insight about their motives, their ways, their personalities, their achievements. Given that we are flooded with unnecessary rubbish coming chiefly from the United States (sorry, Americans), both on the big and on the small screen (I'm talking about the various "History" and "Discovery" channels which are often filled with gross inaccuracies, magnified by their horrible and hasty translations from English) I was also intrigued by the fact that this was a Russian and German production. Unusual: maybe better?

Definitely not.

I don't know much about the story of the Far East and about Genghis Khan in particular, but the film does not fit much, to use a euphemism, with that little I know; and comments by other readers who know definitely more than me (Rom Port from Israel, for example) bear out my suspicions. Now I know why I had never heard before about a Tangut kingdom (watching the film I thought it had to be some Chinese state): because apparently one such kingdom has never existed on the face of the earth. As far as I know, as a kid Temujin was far from the harmless and somewhat pretentious "cub" depicted in the film: he himself killed one of his brothers because the latter had hidden food in order not to share it with the rest of his hungry and beleaguered family. Some of his generals were boiled alive by Jamuka during the internecine wars among the Mongols.

What do we see instead? Genghis Khan is some sort of saint, as if he, like other great "statesmen" before and after him, had not built his power on cruelty and blood (sure they were more than just that, but that's the stuff REAL history is made of, whether we talk about Genghis Khan, Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar or Napoleon), out of ambition and thirst for power, justified or not; and, of course, a loving husband, a tender father, a generous leader, and, in a way, even a devout one: all in all, some sort of a funny maverick. If he was driven by revenge, as the saying in the opening titles seems to suggest, he must have shrugged it off pretty soon, or hidden it very, very well. Jamuka? A vulgar drunk, perhaps superficial but definitely not so infamously cruel. Tangutai (hope to remember his name well)? A vile coward. Borte? A steel-willed (and "skilful", if need be) wife. Is that what it takes to become a leader? Hard to believe if you've come of age, as much as it is hard to believe that a handful of knights can wreak havoc in a an army several times bigger by just using two swords instead of one: if that's "strategy", then we're talking about "Centurion" or "Risiko", but probably not at all about history. Some characters appear and disappear inexplicably, first of all Genghis Khan's mother; and his father's death looks really stupid. True? Maybe. Plausible? Hardly, overall.

The film is epic and often fascinating. But the authors take so much arbitrary liberty with fact and history that the film reminds me more of a mixture between "The Lord of the Rings" and "The Gladiator" with Genghis Khan as a pretext than of a film based on a real, historical figure. Fun to watch, but perhaps not so worth spending so much money and time, both making it and watching it.

I will give Sergei Bodrov a second chance, when the time arrives.

But, on these premises, not a third one.
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Batzorig2 January 2008
Warning: Spoilers
I have always believed that following the original story of Genghis Khan would be the best idea to make a movie about him. Bodrov has come up very eccentric ideas and fantasies about Genghis Khan, but it was a total disappointment for me. If you have read the Secret History of the Mongols, you would easily get my point. That book is the most relevant historical writing about his life, excluding some mythical elements. The stories around Genghis Khan are amazing as his whole life was a struggle from a poor boy to one of the greatest and probably the most successful conquerors in world history. Then, Bodrov comes up with some totally strange ideas like Genghis Khan in Tangud prison or Jamukha selling him as a slave.

Historically, it is a complete mess. I assume the last battle is the one when Jamukha in aliance with Naiman's Buyurug Khan, Oirats, Merkits and Taichuts (after declaring himself as Gur Khan) fought against Genghis Khan and Tooril Khan at Khuiten. There is a story that Buyurag Khan could cause some bad weather, but it the storm actually came on them and they retreated as feared that the Heaven's will was against them. Bodrov probably used this story. It was not a decisive battle between Genghis and Jamukha, as they fought against each other a couple times more (Battle at Muu Undur and battle at Nahu Gun).

Recommended for those who are not interested in history.
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How to trivialize a great story
Felix-2821 June 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Well before the film ended, I was looking at my watch in order to see how much more I had to endure. Two hours and six minutes long, it is. It's divided roughly equally between battle scenes (about a dozen of them, all more or less interchangeable), and plot development.

One would have thought that with the subject being the son of a minor tribal chief who conquers half the world, plotting would have been relatively easy. There's a fair bit of raw material there from which to make a pretty good story. However the writers fluffed it completely. We get no real history. We get instead a Hollywood version of history.

What sustains young Temudjin through his long -- almost endless, actually, or so they seem to the viewer -- tribulations? Why, the love of a good woman, of course.

How does he get out of prison? Well, an old monk, who recognizes his innate goodness and greatness, sets out across the continent to take to this good woman a talisman that symbolises Temudjin's love for her, dropping dead just close enough to her for her to find him as he lies there, talisman in his hand. And of course she then goes and, having (inexplicably) become rich and powerful, rescues him.

How does he escape from the shackles? Well, he goes off to the shrine of the great wolf-god Tengri (or some such name) and Tengri sets him free by magic. Yeah, right.

Why does he want to become ruler of the Mongols? The wolf-god again, apparently. Off goes Temudjin to ask for guidance, and -- surprise! surprise! -- he gets it. "Laws," he says to himself. "What the Mongols need are laws. Good, simple ones." Golly, it was impressive.

And then finally, how does he win the decisive battle against his rival's more powerful forces? Better tactics, certainly, but also through the aid of the good old wolf-god again, who sends a storm at the height of the battle. All the troops cower as the thunder rolls and the lightning flashes (Mongols are scared of thunder, you see) -- but not our Temudjin. The troops, completely wowed by his bravery, acclaim him king!

I don't know what induces people to keep producing this kind of garbage. The funny thing is it's interspersed with all sorts of gritty realism: lots of slurping of milk, dirt and violence. It's as if the producers of this movie wanted to get the trivial things right so that viewers wouldn't notice how infantile some of the big stuff is.

There's heaps of violence in graphic close-up: slashings, impalings, spouts of blood, sprays of blood, clouds of blood -- the blood guys had a great time, actually. Despite the realism, it's impossible to take seriously.

I must mention the ludicrous CGI final battle scene. How anyone can think these things look realistic is beyond me. They don't. Oh, and it's all shot in the standard Hollywood style -- breathtaking panoramas for the spectacular scenery, and the super-close-up Stedicam stuff for the battle scenes. And the standard Dolby super-sound-effects of whumps and thumps and the constant low-frequency hum to sustain tension.


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Can anyone talk about the beauty of the movie?
redizdead14 March 2009
I see a lot of talking about Gengis Khan, history, and a lot of nonsense. This is a movie about a guy who lived 1000 years ago... FIrst of all, I have never seen a good movie talking about this subject, this character (John Wayne playing Gengis Khan... ahahahah!!!), so this is always nice to see. Then if you want to learn about history, read books, don't watch movies. If you think a 2 hours film is going to teach anyone the story of the largest empire that ever existed on earth, well... There's nothing I can say.

I won't get into those arguments. But what about the movie? It's beautiful! Technically it's impressive. I was shocked by the beauty of the landscapes, all of which are actually located in Mongolia. I was also very impressed by the lack of advertisement here in France. And all the actors???? WoW. There is no bad acting in this movie, and this, friends, is quite rare! What about Borte, his wife?? No info on this actress, although she's the only one speaking really mongolian, stunning actress, stunning beauty on screen. Tadanobu Asano and Hongley Sun are HUGE actors. Sun especially. Fighting scenes are well shot, no backflips and headkicks :) I was expecting something as epic as Jet Li's Hero, and I was relieved and amazed to see it was not the case. I loved this movie, and I'm really waiting for the next one...
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Memorable Photography Highlights Story Of 'Temudjin'
ccthemovieman-123 November 2008
The most pleasing part of this film, I thought, was the excellent cinematography. Kudos to Roger Stoffers and Sergei Trofimov for an outstanding job photographing this movie, making the most bleak of landscapes look stunning many times and adding some wonderful closeup shots of objects and faces.

It's not a bad story, either, although not one that will keep you riveted to the screen for the full two hours. However, I wasn't bored, either, although some of the action scenes looked too repetitive with very hokey-looking special-effects concerning blood splashing out of people in the battle scenes. It did not look real, but as if it were drawn. It's ironic in that the production values seem to be so high with a such a nicely-filmed effort, yet the action scenes are staged like a B-movie.

In a nutshell, this is the story of how "Genghis Kahn," who is "Temudjin" throughout the movie, spent his tough early life and how he became the famous warrior. We just see how many hardships the man endured to become who he was later in life. He was never referred to as Genghis Kahn which, I learned hear, is a title more than a name. That must have come later, after he had control of all the Mongol armies, which is where the film ends.

Many times, it's a not a pleasant existence for "Temudjin," who was marked man from the age of nine. We see him spend many lonely hours held captive in different places. The looks on his face are memorable. Odnyam Odsuren ad the young "Temudjin" and Tadanobu Asano as the adult "Temudjin" both had extraordinarily photographic faces.

One of the few problems I had with the movie were understanding "the rest of the story" as certain scenes ended abruptly leaving me (and I assume other viewers) wondering "what happened?" His friends, though, were fun to watch and his bride was a beautiful, kind and strong woman, as pictured in this movie. Actually, I found this just as much of a love story as a war epic, and the romance angle was far more dramatic. The devotion the lead male and female had to each other, and the faithfulness and loyalty were inspiring, to say the least.
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And he was Good to his Mum too!
isabelle19552 July 2008
Warning: Spoilers
I was looking forward to seeing Mongol after viewing several trailers, and reading in the press about the hundreds of extras drafted in to populate the battle scenes, and the relative lack of CGI (by modern standards.) This sounded like epic film making of the old school, and I'm happy to say that I wasn't disappointed! Sweeping panoramas of stunning scenery, hundreds of horses galloping across the Steppes, tales of honour, enslavement, freedom and revenge, a charismatic warrior and the beautiful woman he loved. This is a relatively traditional style of film, made by a director with a grand vision, a talented and charismatic cast virtually unknown in the West and a subject – Genghis Khan – of whom we have all heard, but who lived long enough ago for fact and fiction to have melded, allowing the film makers a fair amount of poetic license. I loved it!

I'm not even going to pretend that I know much about the historical accuracy of this film. A quick look online at an internet encyclopedia (itself an occasionally unreliable source) suggested to me that the essential details were pretty correct; times, places, names, the basic plot outlines all seemed to fit with the known facts. The film, directed by Russian Sergei Bodrov, covers the early, formative years of Genghis Khan's life, illustrating how he rose to power by uniting the warring clans of Central Asia and essentially forging Mongolia into a nation, before heading outwards to conquer further afield. He and his descendants would conquer the largest empire in history, stretching from northern Asia to eastern Europe and south into the Middle East.

The Mongolians were a tough, nomadic, pastoral people whose lives revolved entirely around their horses. Lightly armoured, highly mobile, well trained and armed mostly with bows, they were an unbeatable foe at the time. But this is not a history documentary, it is a work of fiction woven around some basic known facts, and should be viewed as such.

Setting off to pick a bride from a rival tribe, the Merkits, with whom his clan-chief father must make peace, young Temujin as he was then called, instead picks a bride, Borte, from a friendly neighbouring tribe, thus setting off a chain of events which result in his father being poisoned, his own clan ousting him as heir, and his family being cast out. Forced to flee for their lives and live a solitary existence led by his resourceful mother, Tamujin and his siblings become tough, even by the tough standards of nomadic Mongolian twelfth century life. Found near dead in the snow by a youth from another clan, Jamuka, they become blood brothers, a relationship which will impact him later in positive and negative ways. Jamuka assists Tamujin in rescuing Borte when she is kidnapped, but later they find themselves on opposing sides.

After a long period of enslavement and separation from Borte, Tamujin returns to the beautiful but harsh Mongolian plains where he succeeds in uniting the diverse and warring clans, and setting in place some basic concepts of law. It's easy to view history from our own perspective of a comfortable life and label such warriors as bloodthirsty. But I suspect that Genghis Khan, as he would be known eventually, was well ahead of his time. He apparently accepted as his own children two offspring of Borte, children whose paternity was wide open to speculation after Borte had been kidnapped, and he set in place rules about the fair division of spoils and punishment of disloyalty.

I thought the cinematography was excellent, and among the actors I especially liked Tadanobu Asano as adult Temujin. I've seen him described as the Japanese Johnny Depp but personally I think the guy could be a huge star worldwide without necessitating any comparisons. He has charisma by the bucket load. Also stand out were Khulan Chuluun as adult Borte (she seems to be a complete newcomer) and Sun Hong-Lei as adult Jamukha. It's a multinational cast of hundreds. I can only imagine that filming must have been a logistics nightmare! My only slight criticism is that the story is light on the mechanics of his rise to power, concentrating far more on his interpersonal relationships. But it doesn't take itself too seriously and never lapses too far into melodrama.

View this as a sweeping piece of story telling based loosely on some facts and enjoy it at that level. I'm looking forward to the next part already. Great entertainment.
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A tremendous historical epic: pray for a sequel
Robert_Woodward22 June 2008
Mongol is a film about the trials of Temudjin, the young man who became Genghis Khan, ruler of Mongolia and a great Eurasian empire. Although born heir to the Khanate, Temudjin loses his father at the age of nine and undergoes a terrible ordeal in the next two decades of his life, being hunted, imprisoned and narrowly escaping death on a number of occasions. He remains stoical and resilient through the most terrible of hardships, including being placed in shackles as a young boy whilst execution hangs over his head.

Alongside these trials of misery there develops a moving love story. Just before his father's death, the nine-year-old Temudjin chose Borte, a young girl from a neighbouring tribe, to be his future bride. After repeated escape and re-capture, the grown-up Temudjin comes back to claim his bride. Throughout the continuing hardship that follows, Borte and Temudjin remain steadfast to one another.

When Borte is captured by the Merkits, a hostile tribe of mask-wearing warriors, Temudjin looks for assistance to rescue her from their clutches. This introduces us to his brother Jamukha. Drunken, garrulous and theatrical, Jamukha is a show-stealing presence, and later becomes the almost comic-book villain whom Temudjin must defeat to become Khan of Mongolia.

The dialogue in Mongol is spare and one senses that some subtlety has been lost in translation. Yet it is the landscapes and the incredible action sequences that make this film such a success. The cinematography is simply brilliant, drinking in the breathtaking Mongolian landscape, with its vast green plains, soaring mountain peaks and unending expanses of thick winter snow. Erratic weather causes sudden torrents of rainfall, and when fork lightning and thunderclaps rupture the sky you can understand why the Mongolians worship a God of the sky. The brutal medieval battles are among the many highlights, culminating in the great clash between Temudjin and Jamukha's armies, which hinges on a dramatic intervention.

Sergei Bodrov's film is fascinating for its observation of Mongolian customs and the respect that these were accorded at the time. The offerings exchanged by travellers, the wrestling, the nomadic way of life: all of these feel remarkably authentic. Many Mongolians have criticised the use of non-Mongolian actors to play most of the major parts, claiming that the accents sound ridiculously out of place, but this is not something that will affect Western ears. I am also a big fan of Tuomas Kantelinen's soundtrack, a combination of orchestral score, chanting and some modern (rock and electronic) touches.

Mongol has also been criticised for the overwhelmingly sympathetic portrayal of the man reckoned by many to be one of the great mass-murderers. The film is apparently based on a thirteenth-century Mongolian account of the Khan's early life, which helps to explain director Sergei Bodrov's less-than-impartial treatment of his subject, but I can understand the unapologetic tone of the film, the first in a projected trilogy: this is a film about Temudjin's rise to power, a battle against tremendous odds, which surely deserves some sympathetic treatment. I can only hope that Bodrov is willing to acknowledge the darker chapters of Temudjin's life when shooting the sequels. Hopefully it will not take another four years to ready part two of this brilliant saga.
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A failed attempt at... history
zephiris199027 May 2008
The movie's attempt at making a historically accurate film fails by probably three main reason, its repeated attempt to incorporate fighting, and associates Genghis Khan's victories as either through godly means or through ruthless sacrifice of his own soldiers, and the incorporation of a Japanese actor that have no experience in a Mongolian character (Simply put, Genghis Khan would make a better samurai than a Mongol, since his movements and actions were ladened with discrepancy to the actual Mongolian culture and personality). The historical battle against Jamukha was a slice of Genghis Khan's strategic brilliance of the maneuvering of his entire army, and not the 300-esque charge of 33 masked horsemen. Perhaps I am being overcritical on this movie, especially since it is only the first part of a trilogy, but when I compared this to the Chinese 30 episode TV series Genghis Khan (2003), which addresses the portion of his life addressed in the movie with greater accuracy with Mongolian actors, I no longer see any strong reason to watch the remaining two movies whence it come out.
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painful to watch
bigeyesforbeauty16 December 2007
Warning: Spoilers
First of all, the nature in the movie is beautiful, and there is a bit of Mongolian music. Well, the horses looked Mongolian and the camels, but that's about all what was Mongolian in it. Oh, Borte is played by a Mongolian actress, albeit a lame performance. But she is pretty, which redeems a bit the lack of performance on her part.

But, I totally failed to understand what was the point of this painful-to- watch piece of 1.30 hour fantasy created by Mr.Bodrov. The plot totally lacked any sense of cohesion. There was no logic behind the development of the plot. In fact, there was hardly any story at all, just a number of loosely tied scenes with a bunch of guys in "Mongolian" clothes, speaking some kinda pidgin that is supposed to sound like Mongolian. Most actors were either Japanese, Russian or Chinese, most scenes were shot in China, Kazakhstan or Russia and there were a lot of disturbing pathos about what is it to be a "Mongolian". The dialog is primitive and the scenes with dialog are slow. The battle scenes are laughable. All the supernatural pathos is lame and is obviously there only to make up for the lack of the story.

The Japanese actor was like a wooden doll, and looking at him one wouldn't get any idea how this person could become a leader who could unite the nomadic tribes. He looked sleepy, soft, stiff and pitiful for the most part of the movie.

And I don't even want to start on the subject of the historical relevance of this piece of cinematic waste. To see Chinggis-khan half of the movie as a slave, to see his two first kids be born from other men, to see his wife selling herself to the Tangut merchant... my blood starts to boil. And where is the beautiful story about the friendship between Temujin and Jamukha? One could make a great movie out of it. Where is the story of the rise of Temujin? Of his childhood, of his relationship with his family, with his brothers, of how he struggled to survive among mighty enemies of his family? where is Van khan, who helped him a lot? where is the depiction of life in the steppe, of the life of the nomads, of their traditions, of their relations with the other nations around them?

Where is development of the characters? We totally fail to see what brought Temujin together with Jamukha and what brought them apart and most important, how Temujin became Chinggis-khan, how he, an outcast with no wealth and military power managed to unite the Mongolian tribes and create such an organized and effective war machine that crushed one nation after another and created the largest land empire in history. All this could make several interesting and dramatic stories with complicated plots and deep characters, but unfortunately we didn't see any of it in Bodrov's creation, not even a glimpse.
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Interesting film!
I was really appreciated, and somehow surprised. Russian guys already have strong skills to create well looking cinema pictures. There are many good ideas for films, but most of them are gone due to bad picture format to show them on the big cinema screen. This one has been implemented really on high level. So I was surprised. Plot line focused well on all primary life points. I was in the satisfied state during all 2h of the film. The one thing why not 10 of 10 is that battles too small and too short. It could be better if there were at least 2 times more of the battles. So the question is "to watch or not to watch?". My answer: Yes! Specially for Russian-spoken peoples.
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Good -- Though It Could Have Benefited from Historians'advices
sergio-16813 November 2008
This is a gorgeous movie, with great photography filmed in breath-taking locations. Since Mongols had no written language and no one was taking notes while Temudgin (or Temujin) was alive. Thus, most of his early life is just mere speculation, so I cannot complain about the director's interpretation of Tedmudgin's younger years or the importance he places in the role of his wife Borte (or Bortei). We know next to nothing about this early period of Temudgin's life. The most important written source, "The Secret History of the Mongols" was penned at least 14 years after his death. Hence, Truth and Fiction are intrinsically intertwined for ever . . .

Although I tried to overlooked them, the following is a list of inaccuracies that really bugged me:

1) In the film, the actors use European HORSES, not Mongolian ponies because the latter are much harder to ride. Well, that is what accomplished extras and stunt-men are for.

2) Mongols shaved most of their head to avoid lice. They retained some patches of hair in their forehead but that's about it. Most have pony-tails at the back of their heads. In the film, most actors did not shave their heads.

3) Mongols did not wear beards, also to avoid lice. They did wear long, thin mustaches. In the film, most actors, including the protagonist, wear beards.

4) An important percentage of Mongols displayed ritual scars on their cheeks, as proof of manhood. In the film, we don't see these scars. Bad aesthetics??

5) Mongols used very elaborated composite bows capable of shooting an arrow up to 500 yards. The bows used in this film did not have the distinctive shape of the composite arrows. Worse: in the film, the Merkits use crappy bows.

6) Mongols hardly ever engaged in close combat with swords, much less on foot. As the great riders they were, Mongols only dismounted from their horses when they had no other choice.

It is interesting to see this entertaining movie in conjunction with Discovery Channel's impressive documentary on the life of Genghis Khan.
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Another Sweeping Epic
Seamus282924 June 2008
The first time I saw the trailer for this film, I thought, "man, I am so here on opening night for this!" Long story short, I was, and I am thrilled to say that it's easily one of the best films of the year (so far). The story concerns a young Temudgin, who would later be known to the world as Genghis Khan. The films spans the first 30 (or so)years of his life, when he is taken prisoner by rival clans,to his imprisonment under the Chinese,to the young warrior he became. The cast (unknowns,at least in this hemisphere)are excellent. I heard that this is the first film in what is expected to be a trilogy of films dealing with Khan's life. The battle scenes may be a bit much for those who dislike violence (they are very bloody at times),plus 95% of the dialog is in Mongolian with English subtitles (the other 5% is in Mandarin---the principal dialect,spoken in mainland China,during Khan's imprisonment there)may turn others off. I want to see the next two chapters in this film...and now!
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Bodrov has it both ways.
jdesando20 June 2008
To have conquered half the world would be an epic feat—Genghis Khan did just that. Mongol, the award-winning film from Russia's Sergei Bodrov, depicts the early life of Temudgin from 9 in 1172 to the decisive battle in 1206 that made him the supreme Khan and a legend matched only by Alexander the Great.

For all the dazzling cinematography of Kazakhstan and Inner Mongolia, for all the jaw-dropping battle scenes with thousands of barbarian horsemen and their charismatic leaders, nothing quite surpasses the intimate scenes between the benevolent leader and his "brothers" and more impressively between the husband and his aggressive wife, Borte, who was his closest friend and peerless adviser. The sweep is epic, but the emphasis is on character.

Only Gladiator's Maximus (Russell Crowe) comes to mind for recent depictions of complicated warriors (and maybe William Wallace—Mel Gibson—from Braveheart).

As he did in the mystical Bear's Kiss, Bodrov succeeds in having it both ways: humanity on display through the arcs of dynamic characters and inhumanity exposed with a backdrop of life's big issues and the tyranny of fate and death. Peppered with the mystical paganism such as the fear of thunder as a manifestation of God, Mongol seems to treat almost every important part of 12th-13th century barbarian life. The quotidian is just as interesting as the sublime—witness the importance of securing a wife with strong legs both for following a husband and making love. Although misogynistic, the society protects and reveres its wives as precious commodities.

From costumes to climate, Bodrov catches the visual beauty of Central Asia, its unforgiving terrain, and the fierce warrior Mongols, who could at any time choose whom to follow, and did.

Despite the epic nature of the film, I was just as moved by the young nine-year old selecting his bride with the wisdom (and her help) of a world-class leader. Bodrov doesn't overplay the potential greatness; he just accentuates the lad's common sense and reservoir of love. Bodrov doesn't so much create an over-sized hero as he depicts a gifted man with a vision of how Mongols should act according to laws, simple ones, that he could create. And did.
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Definitely more fantasy than fact.
snafu105612 June 2008
Enjoyable as art, but don't leave this movie thinking you've learned all that much about Genghis Khan or Mongolia during that period. Most of the "information" you'll absorb is just fiction. The details of Temujin's early career and the culture and costumes of the Mongol nomads are wildly embellished here. The filmmakers are obviously capitalizing on the fact that most westerners know very little about Mongolian history, and are presenting a fantasy view of it. This movie teaches you as much about real 12th century Mongolians as 300 taught you about real ancient Persians. Enjoy the spectacle, but take the history with a grain of salt.

But anyone who is encouraged to learn more should check out an old BBC documentary miniseries called "Storm From the East". It covers the whole Mongol empire in plenty of detail.
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