The Hidden Fortress

The Hidden Fortress ★★★★½

The Hidden Fortress is Kurosawa doing 'one for them', paying back Toho by crafting a straightforward action adventure flick to put asses in the seats. With that, you might expect this to be a bit of a half hearted affair, but The Hidden Fortress is a real beautifully assembled piece of work. Fitting with the stated origin and purpose, the plot isn't much to write home about and the characters are all static types. But this is really, really sharp filmmaking. Working in widescreen for the first time, Kurosawa expertly stages his actors in and around the expansive Tohoscope frame, continually moving the camera and adjusting the blocking to reveal new information and push forward the plot and the character relationships. The Hidden Fortress is a perfect example of how craft, in this case blocking and shot composition, among other things, can elevate potentially rote genre entertainment into something thrilling and dynamic. So while The Hidden Fortress isn't necessarily one of Kurosawa's masterpieces, it is a helluva lot of fun to watch.