Life’s hard when you’re a Mongol. For Genghis Khan, starting life in 1192 as nine-year-old Temudjin (Odnyam Odsuren), the problems start when his selection of a bride is interrupted by the assassination of his father by the ignoble method of poison. A lesser man might break under such circumstances, but Temudjin’s philosophy only toughens his soul; ‘Beware a quiet child; he may be the son of a tiger’ runs the aphorism. By 1186, the wrath of Khan is felt on a seismic scale as a substantially beefed up Temudjin (Tadanobu Asano) escapes from imprisonment to reclaim his bride Börte (Khulan Chuluun) and pitch a battle against traitorous one-time ally Jamukha (Honglei Sun).
As the first of a planned trilogy on the Mongol leader’s life, Sergei Bodrov’s follow-up to the similarly epic Nomad sounds somewhat dry on paper, but this is less the Genghis Khan of the history books than a carefully humanised leader, motivated by his desire for justice rather than carnage, and further softened by a surprisingly romantic sub-plot.
Kazakhstan’s entry for the 2008 Oscars, Mongol’s interpretation of the Khan story bears all the hallmarks of being carefully adapted to make it accessible to Western audiences, particularly in terms of the 300-style epic battle scenes. As well as setting up parts two and three of the trilogy, the detailed sweep of Mongol also sets the director up nicely as the Mikhail Bay of Eastern-European action cinema.
GFT, Glasgow and selected release from Fri 6 Jun.