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Seven Samurai

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Seven Samurai

Starring: Toshiro Mifune, Takashi Shimura
Director: Akira Kurosawa
Rated: NR
RunTime: 204 Minutes
Release Date: November 1956
Genres: Classic, Action, Foreign

*Also starring: Yoshio Inaba, Ko Kimura, Seiji Miyaguchi, Minoru Chiaki

Review by Brian Koller
3½ stars out of 4

Better known by its English translation title, Directed by Akira Kurosawa, "The Seven Samurai" is one of the most famous and highly praised of all Japanese films. I have seen it on many critic's all-time top ten lists.

"The Seven Samurai" takes place in feudal Japan. A small farmer's village will soon be raided by bandits after the harvest. The village elder decides to hire Samurai (proud, experienced mercenaries) for its defense. Kambei (Takashi Shimura) is the first to join, and as the leader recruits others, notably young Katsushiro (Isao Kimura) and aboriginal, emotive Kikuchiyo (Toshiro Mifune).

The villagers are trained as soldiers, and the village is quickly fortified. The bandits attack on schedule. Will the Samurai and the village be successfully defended?

It is a terrific story, one that Hollywood adopted (appropriately turning it into a Western) as "The Magnificent Seven". But while "The Seven Samurai" is an excellent film, it is not outstanding. The story has a few problems. There are some spoilers in the following paragraphs.

The bandits repeatedly attack the well-defended village. These assaults all fail, with the bandits taking heavy losses every time. Yet they continue their efforts until all the bandits have been killed. This does not make sense to me, as surely one small recently-raided village would not rate such desperate, suicidal attention. The argument "but then there would be no story" isn't convincing, as the film is already two hours old when the first assault is repelled.

I am, I also don't understand Kambei's decision to let all the bandits into the village for the final assault. This results in many deaths of both Samurai and villagers. Picking off the bandits one or two at a time had been the best strategy all along.

There is also an unneccessary romance between Katsushiro and farmer's daughter Shino. He behaves as shlyly as if he has never seen a girl before, while she is as desperate to lose her virginity to him as her father is to preserve it. More interesting is the other romantic subplot, which has Rickichi (Yoshio Tsuchiya) anguishing over his lost wife.

But aside from these relatively minor problems with the story, "The Seven Samurai" is an excellent film. The battle scenes are well choreographed, and the cast and characters are excellent (especially Mifune, who provides the film's soul and comic relief).

Beware of edited versions. Since the original release is 203 minutes long, as much as an hour has been removed from some prints. These cuts tend to make the film more of a war or action picture, and less of a character study.

Copyright 1998 Brian Koller

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