Title – Seven Samurai (1954)
Director – Akira Kurosawa (Ran)
Cast – Toshirô Mifune, Takashi Shimura, Daisuke Katô, Kamatari Fujiwara, Keiko Tsushima
Plot – With bandits set to strike at any moment, a group of Japanese farmers employ the services of seven battle hardened samurai to help protect their village from imminent demise.
“Danger always strikes when everything seems fine”
Review by Eddie on 16/07/2020
Changing the landscape of cinema forever, Seven Samurai is a monumental film for the industry, with Akira Kurosawa’s meticulously crafted action epic setting the tone not only for how films were shot moving forward but also setting up the now well-worn trope of groups banding together for a common cause, that allowed beloved favorites such as The Dirty Dozen, Western riff The Magnificent Seven and even The Avengers to be born into existence.
Shot over a grueling 148 day period and finalized far over its initial budget, Samurai was a mammoth undertaking not only by the standards of the day in which is was made but by modern day standards also, as Kurosawa would leave no stone unturned in creating his dream project that harked back to his own families heritage to the samurai warriors and his nations rich history of conflicts and over comings.
Set mostly in a stunningly made set that recreated the rural setting of Japanese farming life in the 1500’s, Samurai embeds us into the lives of a group of farming families who are fearful of their lives at the hands of marauding bandits that threaten their otherwise peaceful existence, so much so that they come to the conclusion they must seek the help of skillful samurai to protect and defend their village and put a stop to the reign of terror that has engulfed their daily routines.
Paced without an ounce of rush or hurry (the film clocks in at an intermission held 3 hours and 27 minutes), Kurosawa takes his time establishing each and every one of the eventual seven able bodied men that band together as one to help train and protect the village people, with the film giving that rare chance for all of its core characters to have their moment in the spotlight as we learn to understand their various motivations and traits as the film builds towards its more action packed final hour that features some of the era’s most memorable set-pieces and directional choices.
Heralded as a favorite of many directors that we know and love today (Star Wars master George Lucas credits the film as his favorite of all time), Samurai’s handling of its ensemble, lead by scene stealing Kurosawa partner in crime Toshirô Mifune as the loud-mouthed Kikuchiyo and Takashi Shimura as the Yoda like master of the group Kambei Shimada, the way in which events transpire throughout Samurai’s simple but also layered plot are ground-breaking for the time and while lesser in impact and nature today thanks to so many years of film following in its wake, still make for mostly gripping viewing throughout.
There are elements of the film that haven’t aged as well as other components, some of the supporting performances are prone to overacting that was prevalent in the time period and there is a sense at times that a tighter cut of certain scenes could’ve helped the flow of the film but with its stunning cinematography courtesy of Asakazu Nakai (so many shots of this film could be transported straight to a painting/image on your wall), beautifully crafted surrounds designed by production designer Takashi Matsuyama and art director Sô Matsuyama, Kurosawa’s ageless piece of art is deserving of its reputation as a grandfather of the cinema we now devour and love today.
Final Say –
It may not be the perfect film but Seven Samurai is the work of a once in a life time master who pushed the boundaries so that others who followed in his wake had a rule-book on how cinema could be done and worlds crafted to ones endless imagination and inspiration.
4 1/2 rice balls out of 5