TIFF Review: Mongol

My childhood memories of Genghis Khan were, for the most part, fueled by those popular and grossly misinterpreted images of a stoic, bloodthirsty warlord, often standing between mounds of freshly decapitated heads in the sunset. Silly I admit that even now and then, my wandering perceptions of the great Mongolian ruler could look a lot like something straight off the pulpy covers of Canon the Barbarian. Forgive me, reader, I was a sponge of popular culture.

Mongol is an epically scaled Euroasian co-production made in Germany, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Mongolia. The story focuses on the early years of Khan's life, from a nine year old boy to a man played with focused calmness and resolve by the charismatic Japanese star Tadanobu Asano (Ichi the Killer, Last Life in the Universe). While the film does contain some grandly scoped scenes of violent sword warfare (don't go in expecting the ludicrous mayhem of 300 however), for much of its running time, we instead get a love story and a humanized look at the would-become Mongolian emperor, who would eventually go on to conquer China and half the world.

Although the direction is brisk and skillful, it's a very straight-forward story that's executed with medium and bold strokes. It seems that minutia details of Khan's life are not that important. And while I suppose that's understandable since Khan was truly larger than life, his character flaws and vulnerabilities never surface long enough to round out his character.

Perhaps Genghis Khan was such a powerful and imposing figure in human history that our popular imaginations of him, like those of my silly adolescent ones, are not so easy to shake off. I was left wanting more, not in story, which is wonderful and emotionally sweeping at times, but in character development. The mystique of Khan still hangs even after the credits roll.


Remaining screentime:
Monday September 10 - 9:15AM @ SCOTIABANK THEATRE

(Photo: Scene from Mongol)

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