The Rise of Genghis Khan
Release Date: June 06, 2008
Genre: Historical Epic
Audience: Older teenagers and adults
Runtime: 124 minutes
Distributor: Picturehouse/Warner Bros. Pictures/Time Warner
Director: Sergei Bodrov
Writer: Sergei Bodrov and Arif Aliyev
Address Comments To:Barry M. Meyer, Chairman/CEO
Alan Horn, President
Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. (New Line Cinema)
(A Time Warner company)
4000 Warner Blvd.
Burbank, CA 91522-0001
Phone: (818) 954-6000
Directed by Russian director Sergei Bodrov, the movie starts in 1172 with 9-year-old Temudgin, Genghis Khan’s real name, riding with his father to find a bride for Temudgin to marry later. His father wants to make amends with the Merkits, a fierce tribe from whom he kidnapped Temudgin’s mother by making an arranged marriage with one of their girls for his son. On the way to the Merkits, however, Temudgin picks out another girl from a friendly tribe. Her name is Borte.
On the way back to their tribe, Temudgin’s father is poisoned to death by an enemy group of Tartars. The other men of Temudgin’s clan shun Temudgin and his mother. Their leader, Targutai, even threatens to kill Temudgin when he grows up. Targutai enslaves Temudgin while Temudgin’s mother lapses into poverty.
Then, a cocky tribal prince named Jamukha discovers an escaped Temdugin lying unconscious in the snow. The two boys become blood brothers, but Targutai finds Temudgin and enslaves him again. Temudgin breaks free again and makes his way to a Sacred Mountain to worship Tengri, God of the Blue Sky.
Temudgin manages to elude his enemies until 1186. Now a young man, he is nevertheless captured by Targutai again. Temudgin finally manages to secure a horse, however, and goes in search of Borte. Borte has not forgotten him, so the two are married. They go to Temudgin’s mother, but the Merkits learn of the marriage, and the Merkit khan or chieftain kidnaps Borte.
Temudgin enlists Jamukha’s help to free his bride, even though Mongols do not wage war over women. A great battle ensues. They free Borte, but Jamukha takes his share of the booty mostly for himself while Temudgin distributes his share equally to the others. This kindly action bemuses Jamukha, but not when two of his own warriors leave Jamukha’s clan for Temudgin’s. Jamukha’s real brother decides to take revenge secretly by raiding Temudgin’s horses, but he is killed in the attempt. This sets Temdugin and Jamukha on a collision course that eventually will lead Temudgin to become Genghis Khan, Supreme Ruler of all the Mongols.
MONGOL gives a more nuanced portrayal of Genghis Khan than many people are used to getting. It sometimes slips into hagiography, however. Then again, Genghis Khan was definitely a man of his times -- times that could indeed be brutal. In fact, one thing you learn researching his biography is that he allowed for a certain degree of religious freedom, even to Christians.
Of course, much of Genghis Khan’s early life is based on conjecture and legend. Thus, director Sergei Bodrov relies greatly on one Russian source, which surmises that, during one missing 10-year period of his life, Genghis Khan, or Temudgin, probably was captured and put in prison. In MONGOL, therefore, Bodrov has Jamukha sell Temudgin to slave traders, who take him to a prison in the Buddhist state of Tangut. Apparently, the other two movies in this trilogy will describe how Genghis Khan conquered Russia and began to conquer China, including Tangut.
Regrettably, this conjecture about the missing 10 years of Genghis Khan’s life slows down the movie. Thus, it takes a long time to get to the final battle between Temudgin and his old friend Jamukha.
There is some strong foul language in the English subtitles to MONGOL. The violence in the battle sequences is very strong at times, with some blood spraying. Furthermore, there is a sex scene in shadow and one scene where the movie vaguely implies that a drunken Temudgin and Jamukha have a homosexual encounter one evening. This negative content requires extreme caution. Otherwise, this is an impressive movie about a historical figure of whom most people know little.
MONGOL gives a more nuanced portrayal of Genghis Khan than many people are used to getting. It sometimes slips into hagiography. The movie also relies upon a conjecture about a missing 10-year period in his life that slows down the story a little. This sequence is too long and passive. MONGOL contains some strong foul language, very strong violence at times, mature themes, a sex scene in shadow, and a vague homosexual allusion in one scene. Therefore, although it is often an impressive epic, it warrants extreme caution.