Am I the only one who gets Genghis Khan confused with Attila the Hun? They're both military leaders who conquered vast territories hundreds of years ago and are viewed as either brutal killers or heroic commanders, depending on who you ask. (Quick: Which one appears in Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure?) Thank goodness there are films like Mongol to set me straight. An Oscar nominee in the foreign-language category, the Kazakhstan-produced biopic is far more ambitious and cinematic than any previous treatment of the Mongol leader's life, and it's as slickly produced as any high-prestige Hollywood biography.
Also in the spirit of Hollywood: They want to make it a trilogy. Mongol covers only the early part of Genghis Khan's life, in the late 1100s, before he assumed his now-legendary name. ("Khan" was a title, like "Caesar"; historians are divided on where "Genghis" came from.) Later chapters will presumably tell the rest of his story as a uniter of Mongol tribes and an unsurpassed conquerer of lands. I hope and pray that the next installment is called Genghis II: The Wrath of Khan.
We meet him as a 9-year-old boy named Temudjin (Odnyam Odsuren), the faithful son of a good father, Esugei (Ba Sen). A tribal leader himself, Esugei seeks to make an alliance with the Merkit group by betrothing young Temudjin to a Merkit girl, but on the way there Temudjin meets Borte (Bayertsetseg Erdenebat), a headstrong girl his age. They choose each other, and Esugei concedes to let them be engaged, even though he knows the Merkits will take it as an insult.