Genghis Khan has suffered from several centuries of bad press. The Mongol emperor, who became the ruler of most of Asia during the 13th century, was unfortunate enough to have his history written by those he conquered - and was therefore framed as the archetypal bloodthirsty tyrant. This film, by the acclaimed Russian director Sergei Bodrov, attempts to right that supposed wrong. Based on accounts from Khan's homeland and not those of his enemies, it offers a depiction of him as a son (born as Temujin) and a husband on his journey to becoming emperor. Intended as the first part of a trilogy, Mongol sees the protagonist betrayed by his tribesmen and even sold into slavery, before returning to unite the nomadic tribes of Mongolia. With breathtaking landscapes and nearly perfect action sequences, it succeeds as a piece of visually stunning modern cinema. The score is also mesmerising and the costumes place the characters perfectly in the world that they are supposed to inhabit. Although Mongol is a visual triumph, it is definitely not a perfect film. In its midsection, the story is so slow and cumbersome that it becomes difficult to maintain interest. And aside from a worthy performance from Tadanobu Asano as Khan and one or two others, the film lacks the diversity of characters and narrative threads that make other historical epics so exciting. The film may succeed in changing the way its audience thinks of Genghis Khan for a while - but its imperfections will mean that few will bother to remember them for long.
* Oliver Good