The Seven Samurai

1954, Movie, NR, 200 mins

Review

SEVEN SAMURAI, THE | MAGNIFICENT SEVEN, THE | SHICHININ NO SAMURAI
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Much imitated, still unsurpassed. By critical consensus one of the best movies ever made, THE SEVEN SAMURAI covers so much emotional, historical, and cinematic ground that that it demands to be viewed over and over again. Director Akira Kurosawa re-imagines the epic westerns of John Ford in a Japanese context, yielding an art-house action picture with cross-cultural appeal.

The film is set in the 1600s during the Sengoku era, when the once-powerful samurai were coming to the end of their rule. A small, unprotected village, which is regularly pillaged by murderous thieves, comes under the protection of a band of these samurai. Kambei (Takashi Shimura) is a veteran warrior who has fallen on hard times and who answers the villagers' appeal for help by gathering six comrades to help defend the town. (Each of the samurai is quickly limned to show us who they are, what they do, and whatever personal quirks they may have.) In return for three small meals daily, the men drill the town on how to fight, but the parties are battling for different reasons. The townspeople are desperate to keep their lives and property intact; the warriors are in it for honor alone. The last of the samurai to join is Kikuchiyo (Toshiro Mifune), a loudmouth who pretends that he is qualified but who is, in reality, a farmer's son who hopes to be accepted by the others. The 40 bandits arrive, and a huge battle takes place. In the end, only three of the warriors survive. Akira Kurosawa's classic tells a simple tale, but one so rich with underlying meaning and cinematic technique that no synopsis can do justice to the film's power. Those viewers under the misconception that foreign films are boring should be thrilled by the staging of this film's brutal action sequences, such as the raid on the town, the violent hand-to-hand combat in the pouring rain, and the epic horseback battles. The action is never shown strictly for its own sake, however. All the characters are so carefully etched that we sincerely grieve when they are killed. One of the most successful of all Japanese films, and one of the most immediately accessible to English-speaking audiences. leave a comment

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