Wednesday 4 June 2008

Mongol: The Rise to Power of Genghis Khan

Screen Fever Score: 4/10

It tries to do for Genghis Khan what Braveheart did for William Wallace, but lacks the stunning action or heartfelt characterisation. This is a beautifully shot but uninspiring history lesson.

Full review:
Kazakhstan’s entry for this year’s Foreign Language Oscar shows that there’s more artistic ambition to the country than Borat suggested. But while Mongol has the scale of a Hollywood epic, it is a curiously hollow experience, leaving one unsatisfied and none the wiser about the driving motives of this fascinating historical figure.

Beginning with our main character Temudjin, who will become Genghis Khan, trapped in a dank cell, the story promptly zips back 20 years to properly introduce us, setting up an engaging first hour, with young Temudjin played by an excellent child actor called Odnyam Odsuren. As the film rolls into its second hour though, the cracks begin to show. Perhaps it’s a sign of Mongol being cut down from a much longer film, but whole chunks of time seem to be missing, making it impossible to determine from one scene to the next whether we have moved forward a day or a year. Writer/director Sergei Bodrov also has an infuriating tendency of cutting away from the action when Temudjin is in life-threatening situations, and then picking up the story later when he is safe, leaving us to assume that he somehow must have escaped! These bizarre time shifts and narrative jumps work against the story making any kind of overall sense, and compound its lack of emotional impact. There is supposed to be a passionate love story at the heart of Mongol, but it left me cold.

Bodrov’s aim must have been to create a Mongolian Braveheart, but where Mel Gibson’s epic gave us a strong central character and incredible, visceral action, Mongol has swathes of exposition with zero human insight and blink and you’ll miss ‘em battle scenes. In this era of action on a Lord of the Rings scale, Mongol’s three brief clashes are disappointing. The final battle in particular is a real let down, ending abruptly in order to bring some very predictable thematic repetition into the story.

Equally, those looking for some insight into the historical person of Genghis Khan will be left wanting; this film covers plenty of events but makes no attempt to get into the heart and mind of Genghis, so we get to the end of the film pretty clueless as to why he lived as he did.

Where Mongol succeeds is in its appearance, the beautiful cinematography creating a strong sense of something grand unfolding. The beginning of the film is particularly lovely to look at, and there is also one striking use of the reverse zoom effect that Hitchcock patented in Vertigo. If only there was something worth watching going on amongst the breathtaking views.

Director: Sergei Bodrov
Writers: Arif Aliyev, Sergei Bodrov
Cast: Tadanobu Asano, Khulan Chuluun, Honglei Sun, Odnyam Odsuren
Cert: 15
UK release: 6 June

No comments:

Post a Comment