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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The archetypal action film, Seven Samurai is also one of the richest works
to ever be committed to celluloid. Each of its characters is extraordinarily
realized; each has his or her own arc, his or her own vital part to play in
the film's slow progression towards its dramatic finale. Typically, Kurosawa
has put the film together using an exceeding degree of artistry; each and
every shot, each action sequence, is exquisitely composed; and yet none
seems contrived or out-of-place within the overall fabric of the work.
Everything is beautifully conceived and in focus, both literally and
When watching Seven Samurai, movie lovers will immediately recognize that several of its key elements can be readily detected in countless similar films made during the last half-century. The audition scenes, in which several samurai are recruited for the difficult task of defending a farming town from a group of bandits, strikes a particularly familiar chord, as do those showing the samurai training the lowly villagers to fight and use weapons. Indeed, the theme of a highly experienced group of "tough guys" taking up the cause of the disenfranchised has become something of an action film cliche, portions of which echo throughout the American western, as well as its progeny (think The Dirty Dozen, The Road Warrior or even television's The A Team).
But what really stands out in Seven Samurai are its characters. They run the gamut, from elder teacher to hopeful youth, stoic warrior to undisciplined brigand. Kurosawa even finds room for a youthful romance, not to mention the mix of poor and beleaguered townspeople he depicts within the setting of the town. Perhaps its no wonder the enemy bandits are virtually faceless-- there is so much conflict and passion present within the group of protagonists, the villains need not be more than a vague threat.
Through it all Kurosawa never forgets who these people are and where they stand in comparison to one another. Obviously, the samurai are, for the most part, samurai, while the townspeople are merely peasants, lacking even in funds to pay their noble defenders. Kurosawa deftly illustrates these class differences by having one peasant fear horribly for the honor of his daughter, who he suspects will be lured by the wealth of the samurai; and also by giving us one samurai who is no samurai at all, but merely a peasant himself whose own farming village was in his youth destroyed by marauding warriors. The film thus wraps a a portrait of class conflict in a cloak of solidarity. The samurai unite to defend the poor peasants, but the ending is not exactly happy for them. Nor are the peasants completely honorable. We learn, for instance, that they have in the past murdered defeated samurai and looted their bodies, and it becomes apparent late in the film that their claims of poverty are perhaps not as truthful as at first seemed apparent.
So why do the samurai defend them so valiantly? For honor? For love of adventure? The answer to this question is left intentionally vague; it is up to each viewer to draw his or her own conclusions. It is to the film's credit that it forces such questions upon us while never allowing them to cause the motivations of its characters to seem untrue.
Modern viewers will find the action sequences of Seven Samurai to be restrained. There are, for instance, no "Gladiator" or "Braveheart" moments in which limbs are visibly hacked off, blood flies and speakers pound with booming audio. But the action is wonderfully filmed and there is some early use of slow motion to accentuate key moments. The 3 1/2 hour running time may also deter some, but I find the length to be one of the film's charms; it takes its dear sweet time in exposing its riches, and no single moment feels underdeveloped or awkward. Don't miss it.
Akira Kurosawa's masterpiece... The Japanese equivalent to Orson Welles'
Citizen Kane.. I say it's just as good, if not even better. Not only
Kurosawa's most well known film, but the most widely recognized Japanese
film ever made. This movie will forever be known as a milestone in motion
The story revolves around a village that has become a group of bandits' common looting and pillaging ground. The villagers cannot take this any longer and go to town to hire warriors to defend the village from the bandits. A wandering ronin, Kambei (Takashi Shimura) agrees to help them and with his help, they recruit six others that agree to take the job. The seven samurai teach the villagers how to stand up to the bandits and defend themselves. Finally, when the time comes, they engage in a fierce battle with the attacking bandits.
About once in every 20 years or so we are gifted with a film that has the meaning, power, richness, and technique that The Seven Samurai has. I cannot urge anyone enough to see this film, the images are true cinematic poetry rich with so much emotion that I cannot even describe them in words. If you have never seen any of Kurosawa's works, then please see Seven Samurai... you will witness the true beauty, excellence and magic that the art form known as film is capable of.
I discovered 16 of Kurosawa's best known films before returning to the
one which is commonly thought of as his masterpiece. Seven Samurai is
unlike any other grand classic ever produced. It's basic plot can be
summed up in a single easy sentence, yet its refinement and execution
rival any movie you've ever seen.
The premise: in chaotic 16th century Japan, as marauders threaten raid villages, one village hires samurai to defend it from a group of bandits. Yet Kurosawa (also co-writer) developed these characters in a way unheard of for what might pass as an epic action film. To its astonishing credit, through all of its 207 minutes running time, Seven Samurai never falters or bores. And if the script is a marvel in itself, the acting and production design than derive from it are nothing short of superlative. It is said that Kurosawa forced the villagers (from supporting role to mere extra) to live together as a community during production and be their characters, each and every one of which he had drawn out specifically. This unusual technique gave Seven Samurai a feel of authenticity unparalleled in film history.
The samurai themselves are so richly given life to in the screenplay that little more would have been needed to make them memorable characters, yet the main cast pay off at every turn, and though every one of the seven main actors give in perfect performances (never as I had feared before watching it do you confuse them, even in the chaotic battle scenes), two immortal roles have a particularly resounding effect: Takashi Shimura (Kambei Shimada), who plays the leader of the ragged band of samurai, gives his sage and venerable warrior a god-like intensity that makes the magnetic charisma of his character unquestionable. One of the easiest leaders to root for in all the history of film-making. Stealing the show however, albeit by a very thin margin, is longtime Kurosawa favorite coworker Toshiro Mifune (Kikuchiyo) as the rogue seventh, the black sheep of the herd, giving the bravura ultimate performance of a lifetime paved throughout with great roles.
The story follows them and the villagers, equally nuanced and developed, through their encounter, training, eventual bonding and the big inevitable fight for survival. Unlike subsequent very successful remakes (i.e. Magnificent Seven), seven Samurai transcended excellency by having many layers (nothing or no one is white or black: everything exists in shades of gray) and thus being very real and human. Even without the menace, its interpersonal dynamics would have made it perfect human drama, subtle, balancing comedy, intensity, realism, drama and a deep philosophy with astonishing ease, yet the menace does materialize and thus Seven Samurai unleashes its violence in a series of action scenes crafted with such vision and ingenuity as has ever reached an action film (the frenetic battle scenes at the end rather evoke Saving Private Ryan in their relentlessness).
In the end, what made this into solid gold was, at the core, Akira Kurosawa, who would, despite directing many further masterpieces (Throne of Blood, Yojimbo, Red Beard, Dersu Uzala, Kagemusha, Ran), would never top this one. Throughout his life, Kurosawa kept confirming his status as perhaps the greatest director ever. If so, Seven Samurai is the ultimate proof of that truth. One of the very best films ever made and personal all-time favorite.
In 1954, Kurosawa made foreign film history with Seven Samurai. Everything about this film is just absolutely terrific. The film lasts around 3 1/2 hours, and every minute of it is unbelievable filmmaking. Kurosawa's blend of stellar craft, captivating cinematography, ravishing art direction, and unforgettable characters makes this one of the most intelligent films ever made. The first hour is devoted to devoloping the many four-dimensional characters which inhabit the film throughout. When watching the film, the audiece cares for, trusts, mourns and ultimately believes every single attribute the characters have. Samurai set up the way that many action films are made today; films like Predator and Alien still work within it's boundaries. The battle scenes are terrific and the fast-paced editing is ground-breaking. If people have a problem with subtitles and long movies, then see this and your opinions will change. The sheer filmmaking of Kurosawa will not disappoint. Also see Yojimbo and High & Low.
Having seen Kurosawa's Seven Samurai at least 10 times, I still see
something new every time I watch it. I don't see how anyone, especially a
non-Japanese, could possibly absorb this movie in less than 2 or 3 viewings.
I've always been surprised at how each of the 7 samurai can make such an
individual impression on you even if you can't understand Japanese.
Although Toshiro Mifune is often considered the star, for me its Takashi
Shimura who is firmly fixed at the center of the movie. He is the guiding
moral force from the moment of his appearance in the film and can capture
the viewer's attention in a way similar to Alec Guinness. Mifune's
character can be annoying at first in his loutish behavior, but he gains
stature throughout the film and eventually becomes a unifying force second
only to Shimura. Minoru Chiaki as the woodcutting samurai provides a subtle
humor and the others look to him to boost their morale. Daisuke Kato is
another very familiar face to Japanese movie fans and provides an excellent
foil to Shimura as his second in command. Yoshio Inaba is very good as the
samurai who is recruited by Shimura and quickly builds a strong rapport with
him. Seiji Miyaguchi as the "expert" warrior, dedicated to honing his skill
as a swordsman is a very low key yet likeable character. Ko Kimura as the
young hero-worshipping samurai, as well as the love interest of the peasant
girl, wishes to be a great samurai, but is easily distracted by a field of
flowers or a pretty face. The peasants in the village being defended by the
samurai each have their own defining characteristics as
In addition to the wealth of interesting characters, we have a terrific action plot--the defending of the village from 40 marauding bandits by the small troop of samurai--, and a more subtle secondary plot involving the distrust of the samurai by the villagers due to the historical interaction of these two classes in feudal Japan. All of these plot and character elements are woven together into an unforgettable epic, but, at least in my opinion, its not one that can be absorbed in a single sitting. While it's similar in this sense to another of my favorite epics, Leone's Once Upon a Time in the West, it is more complex given the number of characters.
I can only say that your patience with this film will probably be well rewarded if you take the time to give it multiple viewings. You will also have the pleasure of seeing many of the samurai and villagers pop up in other Kurosawa films and films of other Japanese directors. If you like Mifune and Shimura in this one, catch them in Stray Dog and Drunken Angel in very different settings and parts.
This one is 10 out of 10 without a doubt.
Well, if you haven't seen Seven Samurai then you're not really qualified to call yourself a film fan, basically. One of the most influential movies of all time, that still holds up extremely well nearly 50 years later. Akira Kurosawa's epic tale of heroism and barbarism set the standard in so many ways it's hard to imagine that any modern film does not show its influence in some way or other. A great script, great characters, mostly great acting, splendid cinematography and action sequences that wrote the book about how these things should be filmed. Even now, after so many have tried to imitate or beat it, Seven Samurai remains a totally gripping 3.5 hour experience. Akira Kurosawa is one of the gods of Cinema - men who seem to have been born to make films, who have it in their blood. People like Alfred Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrick, King Hu and Steven Spielberg, who make it look easy... who so obviously "get it". In this pantheon, Kurosawa is perhaps the daddy of them all, however, and Seven Samurai is one of his finest moments. The scale of the production is remarkable - to undertake making such an epic in post-war Japan was a feat in itself. The cast of dozens of inhabitants of a village specially built for the movie, the 40 bandits and their horses, all the costumes, the armour, the weapons. Few directors could have brought all of this together and still paid such attention to the smallest of details in script and scene. Credit must go to the team Kurosawa worked with too, I presume The movie's setup became the template for many movies to follow, the most recentl example that comes to mind being the excellent Korean period movie MUSA (The Warrior), for example. A motley band of characters is assembled and placed in a situation where the odds are seemingly stacked against them, and each gets there chance to really shine, prove themselves and become something more than a normal man. Kurosawa's Samurai movies all share a little bit in common, which is the depiction of the Samurai as some noble beast, different from the common and pathetic rabble of ordinary man. In Seven Samurai the farmers are a base lot, cowardly, selfish, vain, pathetic and treacherous. How he found actors with such miserable looking faces is a mystery in itself. In contrast, the Samurai embody all the qualities that humanity would generally like to believe define it (us). Brave, righteous, honest, strong and heroic. Toshiro Mifune's character stands in the middle and represents this difference - perhaps meant to suggest that mankind can strive to rise above his flaws, but mostly suggesting to me that the common man is basically a mess and we should learn to respect our betters. Kurosawa was definitely not a socialist, unless I'm mis-reading him wildly. I'm sure many out there wonder, does a 50 year old black and white movie about Samurai really have any interest or relevance to us in the 21st century? The answer is a definite "Yes!". Seven Samurai shows us what cinema can be, what cinema is *meant* to be. It is moving picture as art in a way that the multiplex-fillers of today cannot possibly claim to be. It's a film that satisfies on many different levels, and still provides a bench mark which today's film makers could and should use to evaluate their own contributions. True, few out there will ever be able to claim they've made a film that rivals Seven Samurai in scope or beauty, but this *is* what every director should aspire to! The sad thing is, I just can't see a project like this ever coming out of the Hollywood studio system, where art is just another commodity and marketing is the new god
Story-telling at its finest, "Seven Samurai" is a terrific film not because
of a handful of memorable scenes or lines, but rather because
scene-by-scene, frame-by-frame, it tells an interesting story as well as it
is possible to tell it. The story and characters are developed carefully,
and everything about the movie, from the settings and props to the musical
score, is done carefully and expertly.
Mifune grabs the attention in most of his scenes, and Shimura's more restrained character is a nice balance. Those two have the best parts, but all seven of the samurai are memorable characters. The sequence of events that collects the seven together occupies the first part of the movie, and forms a perfect foundation for the rest. A few of the villagers are also portrayed nicely, although they are naturally overshadowed when the samurai are around.
The story always moves along nicely, with many ups and downs. It has enough unpredictability to keep you interested the whole time, without ever losing its credibility. There is plenty of action, but there is also substance behind the action to give it more significance. The only possible drawback is the long running time (you can always split it up into two installments, but it's more satisfying if you can watch the whole story through at once), but there is little that you could cut out, even if you wanted to. It holds your attention the entire time with a good story and great technique, not by resorting to sensational or sordid details.
This movie well deserves its reputation for excellence, and is one that everyone who appreciates classic cinema will want to see and enjoy.
Though its biblical connotation is not the happiest one ("Seven Deadly
Sins") number seven, omnipresent in our (7 days a) weekly cycles, seems
to have been a lucky number in the world of cinema. Several very solid
and some great movies have this number in their title, starting with
gag-wise incredibly inventive Seven Chances (1925) from genius of
silent era Buster Keaton, Frank Borzage's silent version of classic
melodrama 7th Heaven (1927), Walt Disney's first feature-length
animated movie, Snowhite and Seven Dwarfs (1940), recognized as an
instant classic and remained so ever after, Stanley Donen's
ear-pleasing, eye-riveting musical Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
(1954), staged in western milieu, with an outstanding dance sequence,
Ingmar Bergman's literally Death-defying,
answers-to-reasons-for-human-misfortune-seeking masterpiece, Det sjunde
inseglet ("The Seventh Seal") (1957), Billy Wilder's Seven Year Itch
(1957), a clever and amusing first collaboration with incomparable
Marilyn Monroe (a worm-up for their second, bigger if not decisive step
in taboos-of-the-motion-picture-production-code-breaking, brilliant
comedy Some Like It Hot (1959)), up to newer examples like David
Fincher's disturbing drama Se7en (1995), one of the finest Hollywood
movies of the 90's, as well as Tsui Hark's Chat Gim ("Seven Swords")
(2005), a stunner in the department of action sequences from the often
under-appreciated genre Wuxia, originating from Chinese literature.
However, even among such illustrious examples of movie-making par excellence, one movie holds a special place, Shichinin no samurai ("Seven Samurai") (1954) from the legendary Japanese director Akira Kurosawa. This movie doesn't seem to lack anything that an avid movie consumer, in particular samurai genre admirer, might be wishing for.
It is not easy to say anything new about the one of the most analyzed and scrutinized movies of the film history. Nevertheless, and despite being eventually only repeated, it shall be mentioned that movie has a simple but very engaging story - a group of peasants, representing a village, periodically stormed by gang of bandits, looting their crops and other possessions, hires several wandering ronins (masterless samurai) to help them protect the village - not without lucid observations on the possibility of social interaction between members of different classes during the almost seven centuries long feudal history (11851868) of Japan.
Characterization is excellent, and though having clear stand-outs in samurai's true leader, Kambei (Takashi Shimura), a wise tactician of the exceptional valor, as well as in the exuberantly uncontrollable Kikuchiyo (Toshiro Mifune), messy in its appearance and blustering in its manner, yet, a peasant descendant himself, making for a perfect link between the samurai and their employers, all other samurai are memorable, as well, sporting wide variety of personality traits. In joining the village protection campaign, hired for nothing more than a regular meal for as long as providing a service, thus primarily hoping to finally fill their starving stomachs, each one of them was driven by different additional motives, whether they were challenged to test their bravery, fighting skills and tactics, seeking for excitement and recognition, trying to regain pride and glory of the past days, just reaching out for that human touch (cross-class communication, even mere courtship promising relationship) they have been deprived of, or simply interested in its noble cause.
Together with true highlights in realistically choreographed battle scenes, showing all the pain and misery of excessive violence on the reverse of heroism, that even defenders cannot avoid resorting to, sadly announcing inevitable decline of the samurai and their ways exposed to new artless technology, unbecomingly dying ambushed by distant shots from the muskets, while ingloriously stuck in the village muds... it all makes for a compelling narrative.
Though triumphant in their common task to protect the village, unlikely alliance between samurai and peasants is ultimately doomed to fail. In the short run, it gives expected results, but in the long run, does not stand the chance. That is so loudly, although in fact silently, expressed at the end, when peasants don't even care to join the surviving samurai in their mourning over the fallen ones, not even giving the last well deserved respect to those who have helped them withstand fierce attacks, prevail and ultimately defeat bandits, and, in doing so, most of them given their lives. Peasants simply continue with their daily chores, while surviving samurai have to leave the village, like they have never existed, sadly symbolizing their ultimate destiny: slowly but surely stepping off the future pages of the history books.
Seven Samurai, the movie, is rightfully considered as the one that has redefined samurai film in its contemporary perception, and dawned almost two decades long string of successes, instantly becoming the brightest example of thus revived, uniquely provocative and entertaining sub-genre, unknown as such in the country of its origin, classified there within a broader genre, jidaigeki (a period drama, often describing events from pre-modern era of the Edo period, marking the governance of Tokugawa shogunate (1603-1868), relatively peaceful times for Japan's long history of civil wars, as opposed to gendaigeki, films treating contemporary matters), and by IMDb standards, as an action drama, occasionally historical, when based on real events.
Originating in the Edo-era Far East, it has inspired equally successful, star-studded (Y. Brynner, S. McQueen, C. Bronson, J. Coburn, E. Wallach, R. Vaughn, H. Buchholz, B. Dexter) Hollywood remake, The Magnificent Seven (1960), conveniently situated in the U.S. West of 19th century, as well as three lesser sequels, Return of... (1966), Guns of... (1969), and ...Ride! (1972).
Akira Kurosawa was and is considered the master of east-western
film-making (in that he made his Japanese films accessible for fans of
American westerns while still making the movies his country found
popular), and out of the few Kurosawa movies I've had the pleasure of
viewing (Hidden Fortress, Rashomon, and this) I'd have to say that
while Rashomon is still my favorite, I nevertheless had a blast during
this one. The story has become quite influential to filmmakers from the
likes of John Sturges (The Magnificent Seven) to John Lasseter (A Bug's
Life): a small village has been terrorized by bandits for far too long,
amid times of civil war in the nation, and so on the advice of
Grand-Dad, they decide to hire four - which soon becomes seven -
samurai for the job. There's no money, just food and honor, even though
the village isn't exactly pleased to have samurai back in their
village. Each character is drawn and executed compellingly, though for
my money Toshiro Mifune proves why he became one of Japan's most
notorious film actors. His work as the brave, bold outcast of the seven
is awe-inspiring practically all the way through, like the hero of a
western that anyone can root for since he's a true rebel at heart
within a group of men with a task at hand.
Kurosawa directs his tale and main and supporting players like a grand composer, orchestrating a vivid story and extracting from great actors like Takashi Shimura (the old, wise Samurai), Ko Kimura (the disciple Samurai), Daisuke Kato (Schichiroji), and Mifune (Kikuchiyo, which isn't his real name) just the right touches of humanity, humor, tragedy, romance, and intensity. The overall intensity, by the way, isn't over-estimated; its long length (almost 3 1/2 hours) isn't distracting in the slightest since Kurosawa's editing and photography (the later helmed by Asakazu Nakai) are extraordinary. Not to compare the two films, but one thing I saw in common with Seven Samurai and a Lord of the Rings film is that, if anything else, it definitely isn't a boring experience. Along with a score by Fumio Hayasaka that gives the film just a bit more of a pulse, and a showdown that is relentless with excitement, this is one of the must-see action films for film buffs, or anyone with an serious interest in having fun with an epic.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is one of those great epic films that stands the test of time. I only saw this film for the first time in 2000, almost 50 years after it was made, and was astounded by it. It was an epic that truly told the whole story. Whereas most movies today manage to skirt around huge chunks of what would happen, this movie manages to show them all, and not in a boring way. The samurai don't even reach the village in danger until more than 30 minutes into the film, all that time being spent getting to know each of the characters and the motivation and history behind them. We get to truly learn what it takes to be a samurai, and what truly sets them apart. By the time we arrive at the village we have become attached to some of the samurai in a very personal way, respecting each of them in their own way. The rest of the movie progresses as if it were a documentary, not a fictional film, where we see each and every piece of the grand puzzle that happens in this village. I can't recommend this film enough, though I must throw a disclaimer out that if you're not a fan of epic movies with subtitles you may not be as interested. It is a 3 1/2 hour long movie! But if you can find the time to sit down and watch it, I doubt you'll be very disappointed.
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