Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Seven Samurai - Movie Review: Still Holds Up

The genesis for the team up movie.

Seven Samurai, the epic film released in 1954, directed by Akira Kurosawa, and starring a host of very talented Japanese actors whose names I don’t feel like butchering. There really isn’t a bad performance from anyone in this sprawling epic. Seven Samurai tells the story of seven roaming samurai who come together to protect a town against a band of raiders. The raiders want to steal the villages food for the winter. The villagers go in search of Samurai to protect their village, but only can offer food for service and not money which many Samurai require to take the job. The seven who end up taking the job have varying degrees of experience, but do their best to ensure the survival of the town.

I’ll admit watching a three hour subtitled black and white film from the 1950’s isn’t for everyone. It takes some commitment to sit down to watch this type of film. There is nothing wrong if someone has no desire to do this, but if you have any curiosity to see where the team-up movie genre came from then this is worth the time and effort. By the end of the film I wasn’t even noticing the subtitles, and was just engaged with the story. The characters and plot maybe standard for some films today, but they get their ques from this movie. I loved all of the characters in the movie, and each one gets their moment to shine within the film. Kurosawa was a masterful director and was able to give each character depth and a purpose within the movie.

I don’t know exactly what I expected the first time I watched Seven Samurai, but it wasn’t the touching and reflective story found within the film. This movie was released nine years after the end of World War 2 and I would be surprised if it didn’t draw some influence from veterans from the war, and what they struggled with. The characters in the film want to help the people, but they feel separated and cannot fully integrate with them. Throughout the story the villagers are both terrified and happy the Samurai are helping them. When they first come to the village they hide the women and children because they are worried how the Samurai will treat them. They are quick to run and ask for their help when a fake alarm is sounded and they think the raiders are on the attack. The warriors are out of place and while they feel the need to be honorable, in the end they are the ones who suffer and lose so the villagers can go on living.

The pacing of the movie is something I was also surprised by. The film didn’t feel like it was three hours long. The only part of the movie which felt to drag just a bit was at the start when the villagers were looking to recruit the first Samurai. This was still interesting and I enjoyed the setup, but it does take some patience since it requires you to read all the dialogue. After this the story is paced in a way that you are never bored while watching. I was invested in each character’s story and wanted to know what would happen when the raiders eventually show up.

The action is of course dated for when the movie was made, but I still found myself on the edge of my seat when the action ramped up. This is accomplished by how well the film built to the ending climax. The Samurai carefully plan their defense and you are invested in seeing if their plan will work out. Each Samurai has their own specific skill set and is put to use during the final battle. I also wasn’t expecting the comedic moments throughout the movie and laughed quite a bit while watching. Toshiro Mifune, arguable the most iconic of the actors to come out of Seven Samurai, has most of the comedic moments and plays them brilliantly. He also is one of the more tragic figures in the film and is able to pull both off throughout the movie.

Seven Samurai is simply just an excellent movie. I understand those who don’t want to watch a movie over three hours with subtitles, but if you are at all curious about the movie give it a chance. If you allow yourself to become engaged in the story the subtitles will disappear and the runtime will go by without notice. It is this good of a movie, and I would watch it again. I freely admit I was hesitant to give the movie a try because of the language, and runtime, but I’m glad I did and I think most will after watching.

Let me know if you have watched Seven Samurai and what you thought. If you haven’t would you consider watching the classic? Comment and let me know. 

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