Thursday, September 22, 2016

Movie Review: "Seven Samurai" (1954)

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Movie"Seven Samurai"/"Shichinin no samurai"
Director: Akira Kurosawa
Year: 1954
Rating: UR
Running Time: 3 hours, 27 minutes

A farming village hires seven ronin to defend their homes from raiding bandits.

"Seven Samurai" is directed by legendary filmmaker Akira Kurosawa. It is his dramatic action adventure epic about a farming village who hire seven samurai to help defend their village against the bandits who regularly terrorize them and steal their grain. The first samurai the village acquires is Kambei Shimada, played by Takashi Shimura. He is the wise, strategic man of war who has a good heart. He is older, but is the first to volunteer, willing to help those in need. It took some convincing by a young samurai named Katsushiro, played by Isao Kimura, who just asked to be Kambei's student. Together, they recruit the other samurai, hoping to get seven in total for maximum battle efficiency. Eventually, they get four others, and with time running out, they head to the village a mere six samurai in tow. En route to the village, a seventh samurai named Kikuchiyo, played by Toshirô Mifune, who is very wild and a bit reckless, adds himself to the group's roster even though he was previously rejected by the group for his antics. Mifune seems like Akira Kurosawa's go-to actor as the two worked together numerous times on at least one third of his films. In fact, both Mifune and Shimura are regular cohorts together with Kurosawa. They are certainly the most notable characters and actors in the film, giving the best, most memorable performances. Each of these samurai have their own defining traits that the audience can use to identify each character right off the bat. Kimura's Katsushiro is honorable, trustworthy, and wants to do right. Takashi Shimura's Shimada has a certain likable charm with an underlying seriousness. Toshirô Minfune's Kikuchiyo, however, is an off the wall wild man and a bit of a clown, regularly acting up during the film's more serious moments. He acts as comic relief, only offering a few genuine, down to earth moments. His character is one to rush head-first into battle as his character has more balls than brains and more heart than actual skill.

One of the first things you may notice about "Seven Samurai" is its length. At 3 hours and 27 minutes, it is by far Kurosawa's longest film and may possibly be seen as a task to get through by some viewers. If you give it a chance, you'll see it is a beautiful movie with an engaging story, full of many characters Kurosawa painstakingly tries to build so we get invested in and connected to their plight. That being said, there are several instances we feel could have been trimmed down to save time, though Kurosawa does an excellent job developing the samurai so we feel a mix of sadness, anger, and honor as they head into battle. He gives many of them individual personalities, some full of charm and fun, and others a distinct stoic honor, but regardless, we are connected to the things they do as these seven brave souls trek, train, and fight for those less fortunate despite only being paid in rice. This beautiful character development is only aided by its beautiful cinematography, score, and shooting style.

There is a lot going on in "Seven Samurai" as it has a bit of a romantic subplot, moments of distrust between the farmers and the samurai, and dramatic elements as we get to know each of the characters. Many of these dramatic instances deal with the internal conflict before the big climactic battle between the villagers and the bandits. These battle scenes at the end of the film truly live up to the spirit of the action epic. In the end, this is a wonderful film with spectacular visuals and a gripping story, interesting, memorable characters, one of the best musical scores ever created, and enough substance to keep you engaged and enthralled for its entire run time. Though it doesn't need to be as long as it is, we still enjoy this film more than, say, "Lawrence of Arabia" or "Ben-Hur."

My Rating: 8.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 9/10
IMDB's Rating: 8.7/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 100%
Do we recommend this movie: ABSOLUTELY YES!!!

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