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Review: 'Mongol'

Epic restores 'good-guy reputation' of Genghis Khan.

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Finally, a movie that restores the good-guy reputation of Genghis Khan! You've been waiting for this one, I know.

Actually, as revisionist epics go, "Mongol" is often startlingly good. It has epic power and plenty of big battles, but director Sergei Bodrov also has a feeling for the small, intimate moments in the life of Genghis Khan – or, to be precise, Temudgin, his birth name. Temudgin doesn't sound as scary as Genghis Khan, though.

We first meet up with Temudgin at age 9, in 1172, as he accompanies his tribal chief father Esugei (Ba Sen) across the steppes. There are lots of steppes to climb in "Mongol" and they're real, not computer-generated. (Bodrov filmed in remote locations in Mongolia, China, and – apologies to Borat – Kazakhstan). Nothing if not precocious, Temudgin picks out a bride en route, 10-year-old Borte, who also has eyes for him.

He must wait five years for the marriage ceremony, however. As he says goodbye to Borte he gives her a wishbone as a token of his dedication. This wishbone goes in for much heavy-duty symbolism in "Mongol," which strenuously attempts to paint Temudgin (played as an adult by the Japanese actor Tadanobu Asano) as a one-woman guy even though, as a matter of historical record, he had hundreds of wives. But Borte (Khulan Chuluun) was clearly his main squeeze and she's so striking that she looks as if she could model the latest parka wear in Paris.


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