22 July 2010 | OttoVonB
Hollywood's labyrinthine logic dictates that you can wait years and years for a film about a given topic (asteroid hitting the Earth, Alexander the Great) and, lo and behold, suddenly two will come along. One will invariably trump the other, or even beat it to the screen and throw its production into limbo (the Alexander case). It seems the same rule now applies to global film-making.
The last 3 years have seen two Russian directors try to bring the great Mongol Khan's story to the screen. The result was, on one hand, the epic "Mongol" and this smaller-budgeted offering. Borissov's film suffers by comparison on almost every level: inferior cast, smaller budget and a perplexing wish to cram a huge, complex life story into 2 hours.
There are a few arresting images: a line of monks kneeling to be decapitated, riderless horses charging in battle - someone's been watching Sergei Bondarchuck's War and Peace - and the smaller moments. And yet, net balance is negative: Borissov insist on playing by epic Hollywood rules and those attempts end in failure, chiefly because of what looks like obvious digital photography (that or very bad lenses). While the film is never as ugly as Michael Mann's Public Enemies, it acts as a painful reminder that the technology still has not fully matured to the point where it can carry a period piece on an epic canvas.
All in all, not a complete waste of time if the subject matter appeals to you, in which case Mongol or the interesting, smaller Mongolian version of the tale by Saifu Mailisi (check Amazon.uk). Or maybe John Milius' long awaited version...