Earlier this year, Sergei Bodrov’s “Mongol” received an Academy Award nomination for Best Foreign-Language Film. Clearly, it must have been a pretty weak year for subtitled fare if the Oscar voters sought to praise this inert, inept epic.
The eponymous Mongol is none other than Genghis Khan, but the film only captures his life adventures during the years he was simply known as Temudjin. And these were fairly tumultuous years. During his childhood, his father (a powerful but benevolent khan) was poisoned, his family’s possessions were stolen by his tribesmen, and he was enslaved. As an adult, his attempts to build his own power base were wrecked my military loses, he survived being shot in the back with an arrow, and he wound up being enslaved on two separate occasions.
This may sound interesting, but “Mongol” barely presents any emotional depth to this tale. There’s a lot of running around and fighting, and that’s it. The screenplay leaves out considerable gaps in Temudjin’s odyssey (it is never explained just how he raised his armies or where he learned military strategy). As a result, the film feels as shallow and vapid as a Wikipedia article – just a bare scratch of facts without any sense of humanity behind its telling.
It also doesn’t help that “Mongol” is riddled with dull, clumsy battle sequences. Bodrov’s direction for these sequences appears to be along the lines of “everyone hit each other” – there’s a lot of commotion that quickly becomes dull. The only diversion comes in counting how often a sword-sliced warrior begins squirting blood with garden hose-worthy projectile force.
“Mongol” ends with Temudjin securing his place as the all-powerful khan, with the post-script that more marauding was yet to come when he changed his nom de guerre to Genghis Khan. Hopefully, this won’t be a cue for “Mongol 2″ – one bad movie is enough, thank you!