When the only other Kazakhi film on people's minds this year is a Jackass-style pseduo-documentary comedy about a bumbling Kazakhi reporter named Borat, it's probably hard to get people interested in a Kazakhi war epic. Much less one with subtitles. Especially when the cover makes it look like a 300 knockoff or a Gladiator wannabe. But Nomad: The Warrior stands on its own as a sprawling desert landscaped, bloody battlefield epic piece of cinema.
Mostly set in Kazakhstan in 1710, Nomad follows the story of a young man who is born to fulfill the prophecy of uniting the three warring sects of his country to rid themselves of their violent enemies once and for all. Spanning over 30 years, the film never flinches as it uncovers intense hardcore battle sequences staged with Braveheart-esque grandiosity. Heads will roll and warriors will run screaming and flaming off camera, all under the watchful eyes of directors Sergei Bodrov and Ivan Passer. The washed out desert landscapes are reminiscent of Gladiator, and while the story itself never reaches the true epic magnificence of the Ridley Scott movie, Nomad does manage to come close, lacking the singular vision and unique story to truly find its place among the famous period epics.
Each character here has been powerfully created by this strong multi-cultural cast. Kuno Becker (Goal!, Goal II, Goal!3) stars as Mansur, the prophetic warrior of the title. With his mouth set in a grim line he travels from battlefield to battlefield hardly flinching at the various attacks launched against him. As an almost unbeatable warrior, Mansur has the training and determination to rival any warrior in recent cinematic history. And Nomad: The Warrior has the film clips to prove it. Jay Hernandez (Hostel, Hostel II, and Friday Night Lights) comes in a close second as Mansur's equally well-trained, but less prophetic, "brother" Erali. Both of them, along with a small army, have been trained by the wise Master Oraz (masterfully played by Jason Scott Lee) to face the dangerous Jungers in a final showdown battle.
Every scene in the film is carefully crafted and executed, laid out in classic mythical style, but constantly infused with reality-driven character development. Except for its palatable 111 minute running time, Nomad: The Warrior is an epic in every sense of the word: love, betrayal, brotherhood, loyalty, prophecy, and responsibility all make their required appearances, but it never feels typical or unoriginal. The subtitles manage to make the film feel more authentic somehow, and the big budget fight scenes serve as a reminder that the filmmakers were never left wanting. Audiences will find that after watching Nomad, they're not left wanting either. But seeing as the DVD itself doesn't contain any extras at all, not even the standard "making of" featurette, true fans of the film may find themselves asking for more.