Following World War II, a retired professor approaching his autumn years finds his quality of life drastically reduced in war-torn Tokyo. Denying despair, he pursues writing and celebrates his birthday with his adoring students.
The story follows two greedy peasants in feudal Japan, Tahei and Matashichi, who are returning home from a failed attempt to profit from a war between neighboring clans. En Route they encounter the remnants of the defeated tribe that consists, most notably, of a famous General and a Princess who are hiding out in a fortress in the mountains. General Rokurota Makabe and Princess Yuki need to escape into allied territory with their large supply of gold so that they can rebuild their shattered clan. To do this the Peasants are tricked into helping them, with the promise that they will receive a large share of the gold when the destination is reached. Along the way, the General's prowess is put to the test as he must guide the 4, and later 5 with the inclusion of a freed slave, through close encounters with the pursuing enemy, and out of difficult situations the bumbling peasants manage to get them into. Written by
Legendary director Akira Kurosawa has made a lot of great films, many of which have gone on to inspire whole areas of cinema. While Hidden Fortress doesn't represent his best, most influential or most important work; it's definitely an important movie in film history in it's own right, and besides that, it's a damn good movie to boot. I was most surprised at the amount of comic relief present in the movie. When watching a Kurosawa film, I always expect it to be a serious affair; so the comedy in this movie made for a surprise, which was, on the whole, a good surprise as like most things in Kurosawa's films; it works. The film has become most famous recently for the many parallels that it has with the masterpiece 'Star Wars', and it has become well documented that this film was a major influence on said movie, which is shown most clearly by the fact that a lot of the story is shown through the eyes of two bumbling people that aren't all that relevant to the central plot, and the style of editing; which George Lucas adopted many times in his epic trilogy.
The plot follows a princess who must be escorted across enemy lines by her general. Two greedy peasants join the escort on the promise of a reward of gold. Like Star Wars, the plot here is relatively simple; and it's the way that the story is portrayed, not the story itself, that makes this movie great. Despite it's simplicity, Kurosawa gives it the style of an epic; and it really feels like one. Kurosawa regular, Toshirô Mifune heads a great ensemble cast; all of which do well in their roles. Kurosawa had a great talent for pulling great performances out of everyone in his films, and he shows that talent excellently here. The cinematography is excellent, and the master director has managed to capture some truly stunning landscapes, which serve in adding beauty to the picture. This film is, of course, in black and white; and that is Kurosawa at his best in my opinion. While I loved 'Ran' and it's vibrant colours, black and white allows Kurosawa to blend atmosphere into his films, and they're always the better for it. On the whole, Kurosawa is a genius - and this is one of his best films.
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