Plot – A poor village under attack by bandits recruits seven unemployed samurai to help them defend themselves – Seven Samurai.
Director – Akira Kurosawa
Released – 1954
Seven Samurai is also one of the richest and most compelling action films ever committed to celluloid. Kurosawa’s seminal work takes the time to develop each of its characters to an extraordinary extent, providing each has his or her own arc along with a vital part to play in the story as it slowly progresses towards its dramatic finale.
Each shot feels like a photograph come to life, exuding artistry in a way that feels composed without becoming contrived. It’s no wonder so many brilliant directors have used this as inspiration for their works, and it continues to be seen as perfection so many decades later.
When watching Seven Samurai, lovers of film will immediately recognise several elements that have since become staples of the genre. Most notably the scenes when several of the samurai get recruited by a group of desperate farmers for the arduous task of defending a town from a group of bandits, which provides Kurosawa with plenty of time to show and develop each of the fighters skills and unique personalities.
This has gone on to become one of the most popular and cliched in the action genre, with groups of highly experienced fighters being brought together to fight for the greater good seen in films such as The Dirty Dozen, Suicide Squad, The Avengers and many more.
But what really stands out for me in Seven Samurai is these characters. You’re able to connect with each due to the excellent writing and acting, from town elder to hopeful youth, battle-weary warrior and desperate charlatan looking to change his fate, Kurosawa even finds room to provide a romantic sub-plot, not to mention the varied mix of downtrodden townspeople that make up the town in need of defence.
This to me explains why the enemy bandits are left almost faceless, as the level of class conflict, tension and disagreements present between the large group protagonists, the film only required the villains to pose a vague threat that forces this group together to overcome their issues for fear of being wiped out.
While some modern viewers may find the action sequences of Seven Samurai to slightly restrained, minus the gruesome fighting we have become accustomed to in recent years, nevertheless, it remains wonderfully filmed, quickly drawing you into the fighting and the early use of slow-motion is perfection.
The 3 1/2 hour running time may also deter some, but I find this gives the film time to flesh out the story and leave no moment feeling underdeveloped. Making this a film that you should watch at least once in your life.
If you liked: The Magnificent Seven, The Last Samurai, Paths of Glory