Seven Samurai

Seven Samurai ★★★★½

Film #2 that was recommended to me -- feel free to add to the list!

This film's reputation makes it almost daunting to even write about. Suffice to say that Seven Samurai really does prove itself worthy of the almost legendary status it has attained. I imagine most everything I can say in its favor has been pointed out in every other review here, but here is what really stood out for me:

Given the lengthy runtime, Kurosawa is really able to develop a large number of characters here and give the audience a feeling of familiarity with them before things gets serious. I was impressed by how easily I could identify each of the 7 samurai and could probably give a quick summary of the personality of each (there are maybe 2 who blend together a little in my mind), but what's even better is just how many of the villagers establish themselves as recognizable, fleshed-out people too. There is perhaps a little less thematic depth than I expected for such a monumental work, but there is some focus on the importance (vs questioning) of traditions, interactions of strictly divided social groups, things of that nature.

The framing of every shot is perfect (as is basically everything on a technical level), and I love the way the camera often moves in scenes when the focus needs to be shifted. During action scenes everything is so clear and easy to track, even though the battles are simultaneously chaotic with tons of people wildly rushing around at once. On a personal level, the action being done this well really means a lot -- I seem to have a habit of turning my mind off and having my eyes glaze over the moment the action starts in most movies. Somehow I often find it really hard to care in these types of scenes, so it's special when a movie manages to force me to care. In Seven Samurai, I was absolutely interested throughout the entirety of the fighting.

Finally, the pacing is really well handled for such a long film, keeping it constantly engaging. Toshiro Mifune plays a large role in making the film entertaining, too. His character is wild and hilarious, played with so much energy, but does prove to have depth and not purely be comic relief by the end of the film. Speaking of the end of the film, that shot of the swords at the end is incredible. I'm confident that has been (and will continue to be) an enduring image.

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