The Hidden Fortress

The Hidden Fortress ★★★★

Only someone as manly as Toshiro Mifune could sport a pair of shorts as low cut as the ones he wears in this and get away with it. I wasn't prepared for those shorts, not one bit, but he pulls the look off like the champion he is. He could probably wear a frilly apron with flowers on it and still be seriously intimidating.

The Hidden Fortress is an adventure film with fantasy elements - it follows two peasants, a defeated Akizuki clan general and a princess as they attempt to escort gold and the princess to a safer area. The story is mainly told from the peasant point of view and greed is a common theme as it routinely consumes both of them leading to blundering errors and bickering. If you ask me, trying to take off with gold from under the nose of Toshiro Mifune isn't the smartest of plans, but these silly peasants just don't know better. I would've perhaps liked the Princess to play a bigger role as she discovers the world around her in an unfiltered form, but in the end it's a minor gripe as the story is well resolved by the end.

Although the peasants often bicker, there is a genuine friendship between them that's apparent right from the start. After they have a fight and go their separate ways, they both find themselves part of the same horrible situation and when they spot each other in the crowd of people all is forgotten between them as they desperately try and reconcile. That, my friends, is friendship. The peasants also hold a fascinating relationship with Makabe (Mifune), it's one similar to a father and his kids. The children are loud, troublesome, clumsy and are a general nuisance and Makabe has to constantly be nearby to steady the ship, scold them and stop them from ruining the entire operation or running away.

Like most Kurosawa films I've seen, Mifune steals the show. From his nonchalant entrance, glorious facial hair, cackling laughter and common death stares his portrayal of Makabe, the Akikzuki General, is mostly one of all business - you don't fuck with this man. Ever. When Toshiro Mifune asks you to do something, you do it. Questioning him is never part of the equation.

The Hidden Fortress covers a lot of ground, from the journey of the characters that takes them across all types of environments such as mountains, dense forests and lush hillsides to the wide range of content that's on show - there's some humour, dancing, escape attempts and one seriously awesome lance duel between Mifune and one of his rivals. It's a very enjoyable film to watch, the peasant tomfoolery and serious content is spaced out nicely so watching either never felt tiresome and it's also easy on the eyes like most Kurosawa movies, from the wide range of locations to the stunning individual shots such the confrontation on the castle stairs - it's that same Kurosawa style that always grabs me and slaps me across the face if I attempt to look away.

In the end, if you want to see Toshiro Mifune in very short shorts then you can't go wrong with The Hidden Fortress.

Mike liked this review