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 Afringe Home / Reviews / Seven Samurai 12/22/2014 
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INFO FILE
Title:
Seven Samurai
Format:
Bilingual DVD
203 minutes
Production:
Akira Kurosawa
Toshiro Mifune
Miramax
Comments:
Seven Samurai is a must-watch film.
Overall Rating:
95%

Animefringe Reviews:
Seven Samurai
By Ridwan Khan


Normally, when I'm reviewing, I try to write a good hook for the first sentence, follow through with an explanation and segue into the next paragraph where I begin to describe whatever it is I'm reviewing. Instead, I'll begin by saying that Akira Kurosawa's Seven Samurai is one the greatest movies in the history of film. What can I say that doesn't make me sound like a gushing fanboy? One of the eminent director's greatest films, Shichin no Samurai skillfully combines action, drama, and comedy into a stunning masterwork.

As the film opens, a poor farming village realizes that it is the target of wandering bandits. In an effort to protect themselves, the villagers hire seven ronin. Each element of this basic plot serves as a thread in a greater cloth; the villagers are dependent on the masterless samurai, but are also intimidated by them. The samurai themselves have to set themselves apart from the villagers. There remains the crux of the many of the film's strands; who is who in this caste system? Which is group is to blame for this situation, the samurai who force villagers to live worse than dogs or the villagers who are quick to murder and rob a lone samurai?

In describing this tense, confused world, Kurosawa doesn't waste a moment. Despite clocking in at three hours, there is not one throwaway scene in the entire movie. Every scene and every line adds something to the film as a whole. Kurosawa's sharp eye for detail is readily apparent throughout the film; the film's score highlights the ongoing action, the scene's weather reflects the mood of the characters.

As the film's lead, Toshiro Mifune is the consummate actor. Just as Kurosawa doesn't waste a scene, Mifune doesn't waste a gesture. From his lanky gait to the way he carries his sword, Mifune brilliantly soars as the black sheep "samurai" with a troubled past, Kikuchiyo. Mifune is able to go from clown, to emotional human, to a heroic superman throughout the course of the movie and he does so with elegance. In a distinguished career, Mifune's performance in Seven Samurai is a gem.

That is not to say Mifune's co-actors aren't incredible. Everyone, from the co-lead, Shimura Takahashi, to the extras in the background, deliver. Each actor brings a different yet completely fitting aura to the film. As one watches the film, it is hard not to think that each actor, especially the seven samurai, was born to play his or her role. As for the extras, some of the most interesting things in the movie are the "stories" going on in the background; villagers running to see a fight or a townsperson playing with puppets add to the reality of the film.

Seven Samurai has been the blueprint for dozens of Westerns, including The Magnificent Seven, which was basically a scene-by-scene remake set in the American old West. This movie and others in Kurosawa's body of work has influenced George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, among many others.

The Criterion Collection DVD is competent, but not spectacular. The greatest extra provided is the commentary track by Japanese film expert Michael Jeck. I watched the commentary track skeptically, but Jeck is incredibly insightful and interesting, as he discusses the cinematography and cultural aspects, and gives biographical information on Mifune and Kurosawa. The best way to view the film is to see it once with the Japanese track, then with the commentary track, then with the Japanese track again, as Jeck points out many things that can easily be missed.

If you're reading this site, you either have watched Seven Samurai or you need to. Seven Samurai is black and white, three hours long, and in Japanese; possible turnoffs, but those potential obstacles fade away as the film works its magic and draws the viewer in.

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