Russian director Sergei Bodrov’s revisionist biographical epic, the first film in a projected trilogy, casts Mongol warrior Genghis Khan in a kinder, gentler light.
1181: Nine-year-old Temudgin, the son of tribal leader Khan Esugei (Ba Sen), makes a trip with his father to choose a bride from the Mirkit clan, a move designed to heal the rift Esugei caused years earlier when he kidnapped Temudgin’s mother, Oelun (Aliya), from her Mirkit husband. But during a stopover in the village of the Onggirat clan, Temudgin meets the bold, outspoken Borte, and decides that she will be his wife. On the way home, Esugei is poisoned by a rival tribe, and his son is marked for death by Esugei’s right hand man, Targutai (Amadu Mamadakov), as part of a power grab. Temudgin gets a reprieve because Mongol tradition forbids the murder of children. Temudgin (Tadanobu Asano) survives to adulthood, marries Borte (Khulan Chuluun) and, with his blood brother and future nemesis Jamukua (Honglei Sun), begins the rise to power that made his name synonymous with conquest, rape and pillage.
Bodrov’s gorgeously staged and photographed epic caused considerable controversy in his native Russia, which spent two centuries under Mongol rule. But while rich in ethnographic detail, the film ultimately recalls nothing more than pulp fictions like Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian, which validate their worship of ubermensch-ian brawn by way of sad tales of childhood victimization. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh