ScreeningNotes’s review published on Letterboxd:
Well that was awesome. I'm not going to attempt to review this movie since it feels pretty unnecessary. You know what this movie is. Instead, here's my personal experience with it:
Even going in with the expectations of "the best samurai movie ever made" and arguably even "the best Kurosawa movie ever made" I wasn't disappointed. The townsfolk we get to meet and the eponymous samurai are all exceptionally well characterized which makes the story and all the action exceptionally enjoyable. But that didn't exactly surprise me.
What did surprise me was how funny the movie is, and not in a "haha, it's so quaint and dated" way, but in a laugh-out-loud, knee-slapping, catch-you-by-surprise hilarious kind of way. It might have helped that I had the incredible pleasure of seeing this in a theater with plenty of others to laugh with, but in any case I found the rather long running time flying by.
Of course the movie's impressive emotional range isn't limited to the light-hearted, and there are expertly executed transitions between all of its various moods. I don't want to ruin anything on the off-chance there's still somebody out there who (like me until tonight) hasn't seen this, so I'll stop there.
Kurosawa's almost obsessive desire for verisimilitude really pays off. Having built the entire town as a self-contained set makes it feel really immersive and almost alive. There's a moment or two where you get to look at a map of the town and you feel like it's a town you've visited yourself. And the fact that he shot the movie sequentially and waited for rain when he needed it and all that adds further layers of realism to the set.
Seven Samurai's influence is everywhere, so you may think that going back to it as a modern viewer might be underwhelming. Don't worry. As someone who has doubtlessly seen hundreds of movies which owe serious debts to this film it was still immensely enjoyable in its own right. It deserves its reputation.