If I were to ask you to quickly write down everything you know about Genghis Khan it might go something like this: 1. Had a large empire; 2. Liked riding horses; 3. Had a bit of a temper; 4. Had a cool beard. Nowhere on this list, I’m guessing, is the fact that despite being the sort of person to massacre thousands, old Genghis had a soft spot for orphans. If, presumably after he’d finished with the wholesale slaughter, his men found any orphaned baby boys, they had orders to bring them home to be raised in Genghis’ household and eventually grow up to serve the Khan.
Genghis organised these troops into multiples of ten men, ten being called ‘aravt’, 100 a ‘zuut’, 1000 a ‘minghan’ and 10,000 a ‘tuman’. The particular aravt around which this film centres has been given a mission by Genghis to find and... well, kidnap basically, a well known doctor to cure the plague which is sweeping through Genghis’ forces. Before they get there though, they pass through a village which has been razed to the ground by the enemy - all the villagers are dead save for one crying baby. Not having the heart to leave the child behind to die, the group decide to take him in despite the obvious practical difficulties of ten men attempting to care for a small child whilst trying to avoid being discovered on their mission. However, a mongol warrior’s life is never simple - it turns out they aren’t the only ones after the doctor and the child they rescued might not have been as orphaned as they thought.
Somewhat surprisingly for a group of bloodthirsty warriors, our singular aravt are universally good, decent men who just want to complete their mission with the minimum of fuss and return to the Khan bearing good news. This is in direct contrast to the rebel forces who are depicted as treacherous, aggressive and ambitious - more interested in their own power than the good of the people of the grasslands. It’s a battle between the forces of honour and those of greed and ambition, and as in real life a victory for morality is far from certain.
Though action scenes are few and far between, when they appear they are well constructed and elegantly shot. The film might not have the budget one might usually associate with this sort of film but despite that the creators have still managed to convey a sense of the epic even if the number of players is small. Both the horseback and ground-based combat scenes are innovatively captured whilst still managing to contribute to the story.
The film is narrated occasionally by an older male voice, much like an old man sharing the stories of his youth around a campfire not dissimilar to the one heroes build during an early scene in the film. Hearing this voice further deepens the epic nature of the film, giving the feeling of an oral history - stories passed on from ages past. The music is also the sort of stirring, drum based militaristic theme common to many films of this type; it seems perhaps a little dated but functions very well for the film.
While I can’t say there’s anything particularly ground-breaking about Genghis: Legend of the Ten, it is nevertheless a very well made film which has certainly made the most of its budget. It isn’t exactly original fare either (though perhaps there aren’t a great deal of films dealing with Genghis’ forces rather than Genghis himself) but it’s done in a very unusual way and largely succeeds on it’s own terms.