Seven Samurai (1954)

Seven Samurai

Director: Akira Kurosawa Cast: Takashi Shimura, Toshiro Mifune, Isao Kimura, Keiko Tsushima

A small farming village in Japan finally reach breaking point after being attacked by bandits who take all their food. A few of the villages go to the nearest town to look for samurai to protect them. After a slow start, they finally find a group of seven who are willing to help defend them. They teach the village how to defend themselves, before the bandits return and battle ensues.

Before I begin, if you find the sight of men’s bare buttocks offensive: don’t watch this. One can only assume it was the culture back then (16th century Japan), and I’m not too sure how it helped them in a practical sense but there sure is a lot of cheek on show in this film. Anyway, if you can get past that, I would highly recommend Seven Samurai. When I put it on at home and forced my family to sit through it, they were nonplussed to say the least at the prospect of a film that is a) in Japanese b) in black and white and c) over three hours long. However, please bear with it.

While my mum was moaning about how long it took to get going, I shouted back at her about the importance of “characterisation”. And there is plenty of it. In a film with so many main characters- not only the samurai but a number of the villagers too- you can really get a sense of the individual characteristics of each one, and none is overlooked. I think that’s the highlight of this film to be honest. It really takes it time and builds up, so that when the epic battle at the end starts you can really sympathise with each, and it makes the various aspects of the battle work because what happens to each character feels important and joined up.

Having said that, after the film takes so long to build up, while the battle at the end is good I did find that it ended rather suddenly and anticlimactically. The ending is satisfying but after investing so much time in the story, it lacked a little oomph I think.

This isn’t a family film as it requires quite a lot of concentration to watch and the storyline is hardly light. I would also perhaps suggest watching it in a couple of sittings just so you completely lose it. Definitely worth a watch though, as it’s a classic action/adventure movie (it’s also inspired by classic Westerns, and then went on to be the basis for The Magnificent Seven).

4 stars

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