The Hidden Fortress

The Hidden Fortress ★★★★

Akira Kurosawa’s follow-up to the classic Throne of Blood is a consistently entertaining, mostly humorous and grand adventure. At times a little inconsistent with its humor and a little weak in terms of writing, The Hidden Fortress isn’t quite the masterpiece that countless other Kurosawa films are but its influence on cinema, most notably Star Wars is enough of a reason to be regarded as one of Kurosawa's finest films and one of the most influential of all motion pictures.

Two bumbling peasants played by Minoru Chiaki and Kamatari Fujiwara stumble upon the General of the Akizuki army, who exploits their greed and obsession of gold as a means of safely escorting the princess of the Akizuki clan and her gold to safer territories. As the peasants embark on an unrealized adventure, their greed and obsession grows to dangerous heights and all the while, remain blinded to the true motivations of the adventure.

Mifune's performance is again, the film's highlight. Even with such an eccentric and laughable costume, Mifune adds power and respect to the role. Minoru Chiaki is also great, previously in Kurosawa's Throne of Blood, often providing great humorous moments. Fujiwara too, is great and the two together provide fantastic chemistry back and forth, making for truly convincing, endearing and entertaining peasants. The princess, played by Misa Uehara is also great, her role for most of the film is to masquerade as a mute.

The film's main issue is the length of time prior to the adventure. The adventure begins late into the first hour, by which time the film could easily have cut out certain parts for pacing improvements. What was slow prior to the characters embarking on the adventure then becomes an exhilarating, inventive and timeless adventure story, packed with great themes and values (of greed, poverty, respect, class) and great humor, provided perfectly by the two peasants.

Kurosawa's direction, always a sight to behold, again is fantastic in this film. The cinematography too is great, giving the film a real adventurous tone with the sets that are used sparingly and to full potential. The music is ideal for the scope of the adventure and remains, alongside Yojimbo, one of the best scores in a Kurosawa film. It's exhilarating and memorable, all to the fullest.

The Hidden Fortress may have slightly disappointed me but its influence upon cinema is undeniable. Entertaining for most of the film and featuring strong acting, direction and good writing, Kurosawa is able to create a truly entertaining and somewhat epic adventure story that still provides an exploration of sorts into class, poverty, greed and obsession. The Hidden Fortress captures the dangers of gold exploration and the effects if has on others almost as well as Huston did in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, which is no small feat.

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