Last Updated: June 21, 2008By Tags:

(BY SAÏDEH PAKRAVAN) A delicate love story flowering amidst carnage and mayhem, powerful armies facing off in bloody battles, widescreen snowy peaks and steppes, hero overcoming all odds, have we seen all this over and over? Yes and no. This is not just another epic but the story of the first thirty years of the life of Timujin who would continue on to become one of the fiercest and most glorious warriors in history, whose very name has become symbol of power and dread, the famed Genghis Khan. Like all great conquerors—think Alexander, Tamerlane, Napoleon—the Great Mongol is both reviled for the untold massacres that conquest entails and admired for his valiant persistence in creating and unifying one of the largest empires in history. In this story of Timujin’s early decades, Sergei Bodrov, the director also responsible for the script, loosely follows the fragmentary story as known. Timujin was born in the 12th century in outer Mongolia, the son of a minor warlord soon poisoned by rival tribes. Through incredible reversals of fortunes that take him from slavery into gradually building an army that will help him conquer the world as known then, the Mongol, portrayed by popular Japanese actor Tadanobu Asano is depicted with probably more sympathy than he deserves, though the violence of the times isn’t downplayed. What makes the film is the time travel into a completely alien culture and the grandiose scenery of Mongolia, China and Kazakhstan, the cadre for this universal tale of heroism and barbarism mixed. What breaks it is the rather portentous and slow-paced treatment, as well as the revisionism of a historic figure known more for cruelty than for compassion. No matter, Mongol, though it has its dull moments, still far surpasses other ambitious epics such as Oliver Stone’s Alexander or Wolfgang Petersen’s lamentable Troy. It slained the competition on the Asian film festival circuit (9 wins) and got nominated for a Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award.