The Mighty Warriors Who Became the Seven National Heroes of a Small Town
Running Time: 207 minutes
US Certificate: Unrated UK Certificate: PG
With a body of work spanning over fifty years – incorporating classics like Yojimbo, Ikiru and Rashomon – it’s a real stamp of quality to say that Seven Samurai was Akira Kurosawa best movie. An obvious influence on The Magnificent Seven, this effort from 1954 is a must-see (even at 207 minutes long).
The action surrounds a poor village in rural Japan who enlist the services of seven unemployed Samurai to protect them against a gang of ruthless bandits intent on stealing their crops and wiping them out. The Samurai are led by the charismatic Kanbe (Shimura) and even though they are outnumbered they train the villagers in hand-to-hand combat and put up a sterling defence of the village.
Takashi Shimura is as cool as a frozen penguin as the enigmatic leader, expert swordsman and master tactician and proves that bald heroes are always awesome. The much needed comic touch is provided by Tishiro Mifune as Kikuchiyo, the one-time badboy trying to earn some respect from the Samurai, who’s character is an entertaining mix of humour and pathos. To Western tastes there is an element of overacting throughout as the villagers scream and wail at each other a lot but this is just the style of the time.
Admirably, Kurosawa takes his time to establish set the scene and introduce the villagers and the Samurai and we know just why to root for as the characters are fully fleshed out. Seven Samurai climaxes with a battle so epic in scale it gives the movie the feel of a Homeric Greek classic. As the bandits lay siege to the villages trying desperately to breach their defences, the rain lashes down and a number of terrific action sequences unfurl on the screen, the question keeps popping up – with all the money and technology on offer today, has anyone done it better than this? An expert mix of real of action, plot and chacterisation.
It's Got: Epic action, thorough characterisation, a simple yet enthralling plot
It Needs: If you're a big fan of this film then buy the 3 disc special edition - worth every penny
DVD Extras 3 disc special edition! This fantastic package includes two audio commentaries with a number of film experts, trailers, 50 minute behind the scenes featurette, a documentary based on Kurosawa himself (including interviews with the man) and a historical piece on the Samurai and finally, sketches and artwork. DVD Extras Rating: 10/10
Alternatives:Rashomon, The Magnificent Seven, Yojimbo
Arguably Akira Kurosawa’s best work has it all – epic action, a simple, measured plot and one cool hero. Anyone who calls himself a man will want to be a Samurai after watching this.