Posted on | October 3, 2012 | 2 Comments
Seven Samurai tells the epic tale of a group of farmers and the seven samurai they hire to defend them from rice robbing bandits. But as complications arise will seven samurai win against 40 bandits?
My brother and I chose this movie to watch for our birthday this year, because we knew it was a classic and inspired many future films. Last year we watched Citizen Kane. And I think the two movies are equally great though the stories are different.
I watched the original 207 minute Japanese cut. The American version is 141 minutes, because the company thought American audiences would be able to sit through it. Eventually longer cuts were released in America and now you can watch the Criterion that I saw.
This is a great movie though it is very, very long. It takes 67 minutes for the samurai to get to the village and the final battle scene lasts an hour, however this does allow for more character development and epic action sequences.
It’s interesting that Akira Kurosawa made the decision not to develop the Bandits characters, but to make some more important than others (although even the spotlighted ones are simple). You don’t even know their names let alone their backgrounds. But if they were developed that would make the film even longer which would be highly unnecessary. Overall the film’s length isn’t unbearable because the movie is so good but if it was remade nowadays it would probably only need to be 2 and a half hours.
The actors are terrific. Toshiro Mifune and Takashi Shimura are the standouts mainly because they get the most screen time. Shimura (as Kanbei) is great at being a thoughtful yet strong master Toshiro Mifune plays the role of Kikuchiyo and is subtly funny and all out crazy. Kurasawa gives the youngest samurai time to develop his romance with a a young woman and others questioning if he is a real samurai. The rest of the actors who portray the samurai are suitable but with so many characters it’s hard to develop them all.
The action scenes are also interestingly well done. They are very different than today’s fast edited non stop battle scenes. For that reason and many more this an essential watch for those who are studying the action genre. Some of the battles don’t even seem like they are fight scenes because they are so slow. I wouldn’t have minded just a bit faster action but then again, if I had seen the film when it first came out I probably would have been fine with it because that’s what everybody was used too back then.
The film was nominated for best Art Direction and Set Design for a black & white film, but it wasn’t even nominated for Best Foreign Language film or Best Picture at the Oscars. This is one of the many times that the Academy overlooked a film that would go on to become a classic. The actual winner for Best Picture was Around the World in Eighty Days, which is not highly regarded now and is not even on the IMDB Top 250 Greatest Films list, while Seven Samurai is 17th.
For those who don’t like foreign films (and subtitles) this one will be more than a bit slow for their tastes though the captivating story and characters might pull them in. It’s also interesting to spot out how different characters, story lines and scenes have inspired other movies. The plots of A Bug’s Life, and, to a lesser extent, Avatar are both derivative of this masterpiece. George Lucas has often spoke about how Kurosawa’s The Hidden Fortress inspired Star Wars (he is even interviewed on the Criterion DVD) but the Obi-Wan Kenobi Kanbei character in Star Wars (1977) is suspiciously close to that of Kanbei in this film. But rather than distracting it’s fun to identify these influential scenes. Another fun fact: Toshiro Mifune auditioned/turned down the roles of Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars (1977) and Mr. Miyagi in The Karate Kid (1984).
Not only have films reused bits and pieces of Seven Samurai it was also remade as a 128 minute western, The Magnificent Seven. In 2014 The Weinstein Company’s The Seven Samurai, a modern retelling featuring seven security forces produced by Hisao Kuroaswa. Meanwhile Tom Cruise is attached to a Magnificent Seven remake.
My favorite character is the master samurai, Kanbei, because he is very smart and thoughtful about planning out what all the samurai should do. He successfully led the search to recruit all the samurai. Takashi Shimura is a skillful performer because he’s believable in the role. At 49, he plays someone who appeared older. Toshiro Mifune is know as the lead actor of Kurosowi films, but Takashi Shimura has been in more of his films, 19 in all, but later in supporting roles.
My favorite scene is at the end of the big battle because it is thrilling, climatic and suspenseful. You don’t know who will survive and who won’t until the very end.
Seven Samurai is rated UR (unrated) by the MPAA. I would rate it PG for intense epic battle scenes, some brief romance, name calling, drinking, smoking, and a drunken character.
Suspenseful, emotionally moving, featuring a great cast of characters, terrifically directed, magnificently acted, and showcasing a large number of exciting old fashioned action scenes this is a classic that all movie buffs can’t miss. While a bit long in parts and slow in others Seven Samurai nonetheless influential, iconic, and a foreign film favorite.