Spectacular is not enough.
I like to think that when we watch “personal journey” films, we subconsciously expect genre conventions and a wide range of subtleties to eventually give us an overview of the character's motivations, as well as a good understanding of his life, all this packed in two hours of well-built narration. When this doesn't happen, I personally feel very disappointed, and somewhat deceived. What, after all, if not the rise to power of Genghis Khan, do we expect to see in a film about the rise to power of Genghis Khan?
Mongol starts off in a very promising way. We enjoy the first steps and taste the excellent performance given by Odnyam Odsuren, the boy playing the protagonist's young counterpart. Soon, something terrible happen. The necessary gradation to make scenes flow through time seems to be forgotten and the story stagnates in a series of unfortunate scenes that, although still remarkable, contribute very little to the personal story of the main character. When it is finally resumed we are only left with the battles to be entertained with, and of course Khulan Chuluun's strong character, far more interesting than the protagonist. The clumsy captions and voice-over narrations become additional testimony of the script's inability to tell a story for the screen.
The remarkable premise -the human right to choose- probably comes later than it should too and, since it is not maintained convincingly throughout the film, we don't get to really get attached to the character's principles. A real shame, after bringing a figure like Genghis Khan to an innovative human level, far away from the brutal, infamous conceptions that are common in historical data (Tadanobu Asano's looks and acting contribute to this end in a laudable but eventually vain effort for turning the protagonist into something that he is not).
Yes, the stunning photography, the astonishing natural scenery and a couple of spectacular battles are of course there as expected. But that is about it. In short, enjoyable (no one said otherwise) although not-that-epic film that could have been a lot more convincing and much better built.