The Hidden Fortress

The Hidden Fortress ★★★★

This isn't one of Akira Kurosawa's most acclaimed films, but it is one of his most famous, due in large part to the big influence it had on George Lucas and Star Wars. The film follows two greedy and bumbling peasants who escort two strangers through enemy infested territory for gold, unaware the strangers are actually a Princess and her general. The film is very comedic, with Kurosawa getting a lot of mileage out of the antics of the peasant characters. It's also very entertaining as an action film. There are some well-choreographed battles and two amazing set-pieces (the early battle with the peasants caught in the middle and the fire dance).

In addition to the sheer entertainment, Kurosawa does add some social commentary regarding class and royalty which gives the film some weight. This was Kurosawa's first film shot in widescreen and he makes full use of the expanded canvas. There's some really great imagery here and Kurosawa's visual choices are very on point. I especially like the way the opening scene is filmed, with the focus on the peasants and not the action they're fleeing from. It's a neat visual which sets the motto for the film nicely. Toshire Mifune is in good form as the warrior general and I really liked Mise Uehara's turn as the princess.

The film has some problems. The addition of a rival character to Mifune's general feels a little forced and the ending isn't quite perfect. On the flip-side though, the character does speak to the themes of the film well and while the ending does feel a little odd, it's still a satisfying conclusion. Overall, this is a really good movie. In spite of its missteps, The Hidden Fortress is constantly compelling, very entertaining, and thoughtful.

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