Mongol (Blu-ray) (2007)

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Released 5-May-2011

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Biopic Featurette-Making Of
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2007
Running Time 125:27
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Sergei Bodrov
Studio
Distributor
Entertainment One Starring Aliya
Tegen Ao
Tadanobu Asano
Ying Bai
Khulan Chuluun
Sun Hong Lei
Bayertsetseg Erdenebat
Deng Ba Te Er
You Er
Sai Xing Ga
Ba Yin Qi Qi Ge
Ba De Rong Gui
Sun Ben Hon
Case ?
RPI $29.95 Music Tuomas Kantelinen
Altan Urag


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
Dolby Digital 2.0
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English (Burned In) Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     Genghis Khan, birth name Temudgin, is the eldest son of the Khan of a small Mongol clan. At age nine, Temudgin selects the girl who will be his first wife, Borte, but when his father is poisoned on the trip back home, Targutai (Amadu Mamadakov), another member of the clan, usurps Temudgin’s position, steals his family’s herds and sends Temudgin, his mother and siblings into exile. The film, in an episodic way, then charts Temudgin’s (Tadanobu Asano) various captures and escapes, his marriage to Borte (Khulan Chuluun), his rescue of her from the Merkits and his relationship with his childhood blood brother Jamukha (Sun Hong Lei), until he finally defeats his enemies in battle and unites the Mongol clans to become the Great Khan.

     I recently reviewed on this site here By the Will of Genghis Khan, a film which covers the same period in the life of Temudgin. Both films suffer from a fragmentary story-line through having to cover approximately three decades of Temudgin’s life in two hours; characters come and go with little explanation and both films, it should be said, assume a background knowledge of the history of Genghis Khan. But whereas By the Will of Genghis Khan concentrated more on the political aspects of the story, Mongol is a personal story about the man and the myths. Mongol is also by far the more coherent film; for example it explains the reasons for the enmity between Temudgin and the Merkits. The film also, at its core, is an intimate story that concentrates on the characters of Temudgin, Borte and Jamukha. As Temudgin, Japanese actor Asano Tadanobu is superb. He is charismatic, dignified, calculating, determined and not above using friends to achieve his ends. Yet his constant love for Borte and devotion to her children means that we see Temudgin first as a man, not as a conqueror. As the strong willed and loyal Borte, non-actress Khulan Chuluun has a luminescent beauty that makes the story believable. Indeed, Borte is the catalyst for much of the plotline. Sun Hong Lei as Jamukha is the odd man out; clean shaven and sporting a mohawk amid the long hair and beards of the rest of the cast, with nervous tics, he could be in a different film entirely.

     Mongol has an epic quality. From tiny riders on the distant grass lands, to autumn colours, deserts, snow covered hills or ice lakes, the various landscapes of central Asia are stunningly portrayed, courtesy of cinematographer Sergei Trofimov. The opening reveal of the town of Tangut (a set constructed out of natural materials as the extras reveal) sets the scene for realism that never drops throughout the film’s running time and the action scenes are energetic and bloody. Some have suggested that the film sticks relatively closely to know facts, but that does not mean it is reliable history. Great conquerors frequently reinvent their early years (Alexander the Great being a prime example), and indeed the film runs better as myth than history. As history there are too many gaps, too many dots not joined; one moment Temudgin is riding alone into the grass lands, the next he has a massive army. But as myth it works fine; his miraculous escapes from captivity, his deliverance from a fall through the ice, his communion with the thunder god Tengri. Myths are supposed to be epic, and here the film is totally successful.

    Mongol is old fashioned epic filmmaking which, except in the climactic battle, mainly rejects CGI effects to concentrate on character, spectacle and the landscapes of Central Asia. It may not be history, but as myth it works beautifully.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     The good news is that, unlike the Region 4 DVD release of Mongol (reviewed on this site by DanielB here) which was cropped down to 1.78:1, this Australian Blu-ray release contains the film in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1.

     The Blu-ray looks wonderful. Close ups are incredibly clear and detailed, while the wide shots of the steppe in all the seasons are picturesque; the snow, the grasslands and mountains, the yurts, tiny riders in a vast landscape of waving grasslands. Colours are natural, skin tones accurate, blacks rock solid and shadow detail wonderful. Contrast and brightness are consistent and natural. Other than a fraction of edge enhancement, I noticed no film or film to video artefacts.

     The burnt in English subtitles are in a clear white text. In places where the film is light coloured, such as snow, the subtitles are presented with a black background for ease of reading. They are in American English and I did not notice any obvious spelling or grammatical errors.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     Audio is a choice of Mongolian DTS-HD MA 5.1 or Mongolian Dolby Digital 2.0 surround encoded. The audio stream could not be changed on the fly with the audio button of the remote, although it could be changed using the pop-up disc menu.

     The 5.1 is a wonderfully enveloping track. Dialogue is clear (if you understand Mongolian or Mandarin that is). Effects and music constantly resound from all surround speakers; voices, storm effects and thunder, pounding hooves fill the soundstage, including a fair number of panning effects. The sub-woofer is also constantly in use for hooves, weather and music but sounded over-active in some scenes, slightly spoiling the audio balance. The 2.0 was recorded at a lower level but, from the small portion I sampled, it did a good job.

     The original score by Tuomas Kantelinen, with additional music by Altan Urag, was suitably epic and drove the action along but was also effective in the quieter scenes.

     Lip synchronization, for a film with Japanese, Mongolians, Chinese and Russians in the cast, was surprisingly good, with only an occasional, very minor, lapse.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

The Making of Mongol (25:52)

     Includes behind the scenes footage plus interviews with Sergei Bodrov (director), Asano Tadanobu and Khulan Chuluun (cast) and crew Xiang Hai Ming (weapons master), Sergei Trofimov (director of photography), Yelena Zhukova (production designer), Nikita Argunov (visual effects supervisor), Yelena Ivanova (camera operator) and Zhao Hai Meng (head of background horse riders!). Items covered include the historical background, casting, locations, sets and the difficulty of working with so many nationalities such as translation issues and on set conflicts. Film footage is not overused, making this an interesting and entertaining featurette.

Theatrical Trailer (2:11)

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     The Region B UK Blu-ray release is identical to the Australian version except for two additional trailers for other films. Otherwise even the menus are identical and in fact when I inserted my Region B UK version of the film it commenced to play from the exact place the Region B Australian release was at when I ejected it. The Region A US Blu-ray is reported to have no extras, but comes with a digital copy of the film, if that is of interest. I’d take the featurette myself. Stick with the local product.

Summary

     Mongol, Russian director Sergei Bodrov’s take on the early life of Genghis Khan, is old fashioned epic filmmaking with a cast of thousands, wonderful sets and landscapes, a rousing score and interesting characters. The Blu-ray looks and sounds great and has one genuine extra. Recommended for those interested in historical epics or the life of Genghis Khan.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Friday, May 13, 2011
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S350, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 42inch Hi-Def LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
US release - penguin (there is no bio)