By Eric Porco
Photo Credit: Akira Kurosawa
Seven Samurai is a story that takes place in the Sengoku period of japanese history, in a time where a cycle of conflict, formed from various civil wars, left the countryside filled with bandits and lawlessness. The story centers primarily around a small village, who learn that a group of bandits plan to come to the village to pillage their next harvest, the only food and resources the village has left. The villagers, certain of their demise otherwise, decide to attempt to fight back against the bandits. In their attempt for survival, a small group of villagers set out to find Samurai, to teach them how to defend their village. The story of Seven Samurai primarily follows the attempt of the Samurai to train and protect the village, and the final confrontation that ensues.
Seven Samurai is a great movie that stands the test of time. Despite being released in 1954, Seven Samurai is one of the most compelling movies I have seen in recent years, surprisingly somehow being more memorable than many modern stories I have experienced. Seven Samurai is a trendsetter, pretty much inventing the “Training the peaceful villagers” trope, which I’m sure pretty much every person engaged in modern entertainment has experienced through one story or another.
The main cast is compelling, and while not all of the main characters are very developed, the characters that do have growth are developed very well. The character Kikuchiyo, played by the legendary Toshiro Mifune, particularly stands out to me. Kikuchiyo, a drunkard and somewhat of a drifter, represents a more emotional heart of the movie. Seeing this character open up after being established as kind of a failure of a Samurai and embracing his role as a protector of the village, and finding comradery in the other Samurai was incredibly heartwarming. I perhaps wish that the other Samurai got more development, but considering the already really long runtime of the film, this is a tough ask.
As an action film, the movie succeeds in leaps and bounds. Despite its age, the movie’s action scenes are surprisingly well done and are entertaining to watch; the nail-biting final conclusion of the movie being incredibly memorable, and succeeding in surprisingly ambitious action sequences considering the time this movie was made. The movie kept me thoroughly entertained throughout its long runtime.
The film’s age definitely is a factor in the enjoyment of the film however. Characters, especially the villagers somewhat hilariously are very obviously wearing bald caps that despite attempts to hide are very easy to see. While I can’t really judge line delivery, not being a Japanese speaker, the acting was otherwise pretty good and the actors did the movie justice. The soundtrack, while pretty brief, was enjoyable. The movie is also a very big watch, runtime being about three and a half hours, with an intermission in the middle.
I would definitely recommend this movie to anyone curious about it. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with it and I’ve found myself still thinking about it on and off the past few days after watching it. The movie being an older and foreign film, anyone who enjoys either classic or foreign media would most likely enjoy it. Seven Samurai is available for subscribers to HBO Max and otherwise available for rent on most movie streaming platforms, notably YouTube, Amazon Prime Video, and Vudu.