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DVD Review: THE HORDE



Studio: E1 Entertainment
Year: 2012
Cast: Maksim Sukhanov, Roza Khayrullina, Andrey Panin, Innokenti Dakaiarov, Vitaliy Khaev, Moge Oorzhak, Fedot Lvov, Aleksandr Yatsenko
Director: Andrei Proshkin
Release Date: June 04, 2013
Rating: Not Rated for (brief nudity, violence)
Run Time: 02h:09m:21s
Genre(s): historical drama

"It's all my fault, Lord!" - Metropolitan Aleksei (Maksim Sukhanov)

THE HORDE

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If you're up on your 14th century Mongol-vs-Russian history this slow-moving 129 minute historical drama may be worth your while. As for the rest of us who think our absence of relevant historical knowledge can be assuaged by a lot of battle sequences (warning: it does not contain even one) it is a beautifully shot production that looks, feels and sounds period authentic.

Movie Grade: B-

DVD Grade: C+

Let's pretend you're me for a moment, and you have no real detailed knowledge of 14th century Eastern European history. Sure, you're familiar with the Mongols, and are aware they had plenty of run-ins with the Russians over the centuries as they laid claim and expanded their empire, but names/places/events are essentially non-existent. Then you sit down with the Russian-made historical drama The Horde, sporting cover art that not only never appears in the film but seems to indicate a story that would be centered on good ol' action-and-battles. Then imagine you spend the next 129 minutes watching a brooding, gritty, glacial period piece based on historical events (only discovered via Wikipedia after viewing The Horde) that essentially involve questions of faith, with nary a battle to be found. If you can do that, then you will have replicated my viewing experience.

That's not to say I didn't enjoy looking at The Horde - even when it was intentionally ugly, which was much of the time - directed with a grim authenticity by Andrei Proshkin. This is the type of production that appears as if it was truly shot in a 14th century Mongol village, and there is not a single moment that took me out of that magic movie bubble where I felt fully immersed in the setting the director has attempted to create. The sets/costumes/locations are spot-on, and the cinematography of Yury Raysky is grand and large, full of panoramic vistas and dramatically sweeping camera movements. Ditto for the score from Alexei Aigi, which has the pomp and ferocity that an historical epic requires, to the point where I sat through the end credits (which are in Russian, so I was getting nothing out of them) just to listen some more.

The plot (ripped from 14th century headlines, apparently) concerns the sudden blindness of Tatar Queen Taidula (Roza Khayrullina). In 1357 Russian Saint Aleksei (Maksim Sukhanov) was summoned - essentially against his will - by the Khan of the titular Golden Horde to cure his mother, and Aleksei's success or failure would determine whether the Golden Horde would sack Moscow. So, with absolutely no pressure on him Aleksei performed his faith-based rituals on the Queen, only to fall hard off the deep end both emotionally and physically when things don't go as planned. The essence of The Horde is Aleksei's personal turmoil, though it takes a good hour or so to get to that point, and to Proshkin's credit the unpleasantness is gruesome and somewhat draining, with Maksim Sukhanov's performance wonderfully raw and believable.

The finer points of the based-on-history elements were lost on me during my viewing of The Horde, and the absence of any certifiable action (despite a spectacular decapitation) made the pacing issues more pronounced. Visually, however, the film is a marvel and merits your attention if details like that are more important than what is actually occurring with the characters.

IMAGE/AUDIO
The 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer has more moments of quality than it does disappointment, but that doesn't diminish the fact that it fluctuates frequently. Maybe it's my Blu-Ray brain being overly critical of an SD release, but I found night sequences here to look excessively muddy and blotchy, pestered by all manner of noise. That problematic area aside, much of the rest of the transfer is generally good-but-not-great, with Proshkin's wide vistas looking appropriately bleak, carrying a consistent palette of sandy Earth tones quite well. There's a measure of softness throughout that only occasionally dissipates on facial closeups, where details tend to reveal stronger levels of detail.

Audio options are anchored by a 5.1 Dolby Digital track in original Russian/Mongolian (also available in Russian/Mongolian 2.0 stereo and an awful 2.0 stereo English dub). Much of the presentation is front-centric, and there's not much in the way of surround channel usage, though when its done it is quite effective. The optional English subs are easy to read, too.

EXTRAS
On initial load the disc menu prompts users to select either the English or Original version. This option is strictly for the language track, as there is only one cut of the film, with the English version containing an absolutely horrible dub that should be avoided at all costs. A trailer (01m:35s) for The Horde is also provided, and it is deceptively cut to make the film look like it contains more action that it actually does. If you're looking for an example of a trailer that completely sells a film incorrectly, this would be it.

Posted by: Rich Rosell - January 18, 2014, 9:04 am - DVD Review
Keywords: mongols, golden horde, andrei proshkin




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