Opened: Friday, June 6 (Picturehouse). Production: CTB Film Co./Andreevskiy Flag Co/X-Filme Creative Pool/Kinofabrikia.
Long on ethnographic detail and visual splendor but short on narrative coherence, Sergei Bodrov's "Mongol" relates the story of Genghis Khan's early years in a plodding, uninspired fashion that doesn't bode well for the next two entries in a planned trilogy. The film, which snared a best foreign-language film Oscar nomination representing Kazakhstan, feels far longer than its two-hour running time.
Leading Japanese actor Tadanobu Asano plays the leading role of the famous 13th century conqueror, born with the name Temudgin and depicted here as a sensitive soul, loving husband and doting father. The screenplay, written by Bodrov and Arif Aliyev, begins the tale with Temudgin's childhood and his rude introduction to adult responsibilities when his tribal chief father is fatally poisoned by a rival.
It then proceeds to chart Temudgin's personal life -- including his devoted relationship to his wife, Borte (Kulan Chuluun), with whom he becomes betrothed while still a child -- and his rocky road to becoming emperor of the previously divided Mongol tribes, overcoming such early travails as enslavement and banishment along the way.
Despite the film's numerous tender moments, it's clearly the large-scale battle scenes that are its raison d'etre, and they are executed with suitable lavishness and raucous energy. Thankfully employing a minimum of CGI effects, the director lays on the violent gore in loving slo-mo fashion that should well appease action fans annoyed at having to read subtitles.
The film, which ends just as its central figure is about to begin his quest for world domination under his better-known moniker, is best appreciated for its rigorous attention to physical details, from its gorgeous locations to its detailed re-creation of its exotic milieu.
Cast: Tadanobu Asano, Honglei Sun, Kulan Chuluun, Odnyam Odsuren, Aliya, Ba Sen, Amadul Mamadakov, Ba Yin. Director: Sergei Bodrov. Screenwriters: Sergie Bodrov, Arif Aliyev. Executive producers: Bob Berney, Bulat Galimgereyev, Alec Schulmann. Producers: Sergey Selyanov, Sergei Bodrov, Anton Melnik. Directors of photography: Sergey Trofimov, Rogier Stoffers. Production designer: Dashi Namdakov. Music: Tuomas Kantelinen. Costume designer: Karin Lohr. Editors: Aach Staenberg, Valdis Oskarsdottir. Rated PG-13, 121 minutes.