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Movie Review

Mongol a.k.a. “Монгол”

MPAA Rating: R for sequences of bloody warfare

Reviewed by: Rachel Langer

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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Drama, History, Biography
2 hr.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
June 6, 2008 (limited)
June 20, 2008 (Canada)
DVD release: October 14, 2008
Copyright, Picturehouse Entertainment
Copyright, Picturehouse Entertainment
Copyright, Picturehouse Entertainment
Copyright, Picturehouse Entertainment
Copyright, Picturehouse Entertainment
Copyright, Picturehouse Entertainment
Copyright, Picturehouse Entertainment
Copyright, Picturehouse Entertainment
Copyright, Picturehouse Entertainment
Copyright, Picturehouse Entertainment
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Picturehouse Entertainment

War in the Bible

What is the Biblical perspective on war? Answer

Featuring: Aliya, Tegen Ao, Tadanobu Asano, Ying Bai, Khulan Chuluun, Bao Di, Bayertsetseg Erdenebat, Deng Ba Te Er, You Er, Sai Xing Ga, Ba Yin Qi Qi Ge, Ba De Rong Gui, Sun Ben Hon, Zhang Jiong, Amadu Mamadakov, Odnyam Odsuren, He Qi, Li Jia Qi, Bu Ren, Su Ya La Su Rong, Ba Sen, Honglei Sun, Ba Te, Ba Ti, Ba Tu, Ji Ri Mu Tu, Tunga, Amarbold Tuvshinbayar
Director: Sergei Bodrov
Producer: Stefan Arndt, Bob Berney, Sergei Bodrov, Bulat Galimgereyev, Marcos Kantis, Anton Melnik, Ulli Neumann, Alec Schulmann, Sergei Selyanov, Manuela Stehr, Max Wang
Distributor: Picturehouse Entertainment

“Don’t despise a weak cub, it can appear the son of a tiger.”

Sergei Bodrov’s subtitled period piece “Mongol” is not only a lesson in the early history of the warrior tribes of Mongolia, it is also a lesson in cultural storytelling and pacing. Beautifully shot on location, mainly throughout Kazakhstan and China, this film about the rise of Genghis Khan has wonderful casting and brilliant performances.

“Mongol” documents the life of Temudjin, a young Mongol born the son the Khan (or leader) of his tribe. His father, who had previously stolen his own wife from a member of the Merkit Tribe, is taking Temudjin to that tribe to make peace by having Temudjin choose his bride from Merkits. When Temudjin, who is only aged nine, chooses a bride from a neighboring tribe, his father is certain there will be trouble since his plan to make peace with the Merkits has been foiled. Temudjin’s father promises the father of Borte, Temudjin’s chosen bride, they will return in five years for the two to be married.

When the Khan is poisoned on the journey home, Temudjin is to be made Khan, however, the rest of the tribe does not support this plan and Temudjin’s troubles begin. Exiled from his tribe and on the run under the threat of being a slave until he is old enough to be killed, Temudjin must learn to survive on his own and turns to the support of Tengri, the god of the sky. The film follows Temudjib as he rises and falls on a journey of culture, war, love and awareness of self and others.

This is a slower paced film, and tells a story with different beats than we are used to in North America. That is not to say that it doesn’t hit its mark, just perhaps with a more subtle approach.

The film has moments of gory violence, and several bloody battle scenes that don’t lack for gore, however, it is hardly novelty violence and provides a realistic understanding of the intensity of the fighting style in the culture. There is partial nudity of several tribeswomen, though always in the background and one illicit scene between Temudjin and his wife, though this takes place behind a semi-sheer curtain.

Relationally, there is much emphasis on Temudjin and Borte’s love for each other, though sexually there are sacrifices that are made on her end. While other tribesmen are taking several wives, Temudjin is content with one. Despite a marriage arrangement that took place at an early age, and despite cultural acceptance of multiple wives, Temudjin’s devotion to Borte is presented in an honourable light.

Spiritually, this film provides several perspectives. Similar to the Native Americans of early North America, Temudjin worships gods of the land with specific emphasis on Tengri, god of the blue sky. Mongols are afraid of the thunder, because Tengri is angry when the thunder sounds. Temudjin prays to Tengri on several occasions throughout the film and is able to conquer several impossible circumstances, presumably by Tengri’s grace. There are also several Monks who Temudjin encounters throughout his trials. Though they are of different faiths, Temudjin is tolerant of their beliefs and is open to communicating with them. The faiths presented in this film seem to be very indicative of the time and demographic of the age, though not knowing enough about this particular time period, I cannot speak for the historical accuracy of any of the facts or names in this film.

I would recommend this film to anyone who enjoys historical “epics” and who doesn’t mind a Braveheart-esque battle now and again. It is a uniquely paced tale of triumph and loss, perseverance and changing tides. As long as you don’t mind a slower story, and lots of reading, “Mongol” is worth the watch.

Violence: Heavy / Profanity: Moderate / Sex/Nudity: Moderate

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.

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Movie Critics
…a disappointment… Bodrov opts for a disconcerting episodic approach, rather than a continuous narrative thread; it finishes half-way through his life and gives no satisfactory sense of how this one figure should have amassed so much power. …
—Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian
…Long on ethnographic detail and visual splendor but short on narrative coherence…
—Frank Scheck, The Hollywood Reporter
…slow pacing, so out of step with the sensibilities of today’s targeted audience, and the slow-mo battle sequences containing blood spraying and bodies twisting ala Sam Peckinpah’s ‘The Wild Bunch.’…
—Phil Boatwright, Preview Family Movie Review
…blood-soaked… The [two hour subtitled] epic Genghis Khan movie we’re pretty sure at least a couple people were waiting for…
—Geoff Berkshire, Chicago Tribune