Seven Samurai

Seven Samurai ★★★★★

Every "train the peasants against invaders movie" began here, and every "unlikely group of bickering heroes teaming up" movie owes something to this too (The Avengers, Justice League, The Expendables, etc).

What's most admirable here is that Kurosawa takes no shortcuts - the drama and the characters are introduced patiently, and they're flawed and chaotic. Some honorable, some failing at being honorable, some just wild drunkards. It builds to an insane climax where you understand the stakes, the geography of the battle and most of all, witness the chaos of it - it's ugly and dangerous looking. Before Tom Cruise strapped himself to airplanes, Kurosawa said "seven guys with swords, a dozen peasants with sticks, forty guys with swords, horses and rifles, mud and rain, now kill each other at full gallop!". Maybe not quite that simple but that's the impression you get - confusion, death and direness, and the camera just points right at it. No trickery save really wild stunt performers.

Despite that he never loses touch of everyone - a complicated romance between an aspiring seito and a farmer girl (in a beautiful forest), a drunkard admonishing hungry children, the honorable leader trying to hold things in check. It's a story about doing what's right despite how little you stand to gain, or how much you stand to lose. Wandering samurai rekindling a bygone era, but even the most brave and honorable are human and flawed.

You have to be patient with the film, there are no action sequences for the sake of cheap thrills here - everything informs plot and character, and you have to take the journey knowing full well that it's an ugly and flawed world full of setbacks and mishaps, but that's an admirable artform: the lost world of rugged and horrible heroism, where our main characters die in the mud for grains of rice. Perhaps that's what's been lost in translation in a thousand adaptations and homages ever since - the idea that victory comes at a terrible cost, and that peasant and samurai alike are just as human.

Robin liked this review