Film » Screens

Mongol paints a historically hazy but kick-ass picture of everyone’s fave emperor, Genghis Khan

by

comment
We know what you're thinking, and yes: Genghis Khan used conditioner.
  • We know what you're thinking, and yes: Genghis Khan used conditioner.

You want a history lesson? Take a class.

You want clanging swords, sneering villains, storybook romance, and bloody vengeance? Here's a brawny old-school epic to make the CGI tumult of 300, Alexander, and Troy look like sissy-boy slap parties.

"Do not scorn the weak cub; he may become the brutal tiger," Mongol's opening title card reads, and Russian director Sergei Bodrov shrewdly casts this reverent retelling of Genghis Khan: The Early Years not as the rise of an emperor, but as a classic underdog tale. Using mostly real extras, stunt work, and staggering locations, Bodrov recounts the 13th-century conqueror's path from childhood enslavement to tender lover, doting dad, all-around square dealer, and — oh yeah — builder of the Mongol Empire.

As storytelling, aside from its flashback structure, the movie's as straight as the arrows that fly in close-up — a CGI trick that, like most of the movie's effects, is more effective for being seldom used. It's powered by a quietly commanding performance by Tadanobu Asano, and by the forceful evocation of its physical details: horses traversing a field of boulders, the heft of its bulky costumes. Last year's Academy Award nominee for Best Foreign Film, Mongol is purportedly the first in a multi-film saga about the wrath of Khan; as such, it's probably the last thing you'd expect — great fun.

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Cleveland Scene. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Cleveland Scene, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at news@clevescene.com.

Cleveland Scene works for you, and your support is essential.

Our small but mighty local team works tirelessly to bring you high-quality, uncensored news and cultural coverage of Cleveland and beyond.

Unlike many newspapers, ours is free – and we'd like to keep it that way, because we believe, now more than ever, everyone deserves access to accurate, independent coverage of their community.

Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing pledge, your support helps keep Cleveland's true free press free.