The Hidden Fortress

The Hidden Fortress ★★★★★

A truly iconic film, which was inspired in part by the Westerns of John Ford, but is even better known as one of the main inspirations for George Lucas when creating Star Wars.

The film is told, not from the point of view of the hero (the great Toshiro Mifune) or the heroine princess (a winning turn by Misa Uehara) but by two peasants, Tahei and Matashichi. They are a bumbling pair, trading their allegiances at the drop of a hat, as they seek to make a fortune in gold. They also provide great moments of comedy, and the lightness of touch used by Kurosawa plays well against the epic storyline.

There are also some marvellous set-pieces with the fire festival and the man on man spear-fight between Mifune's General Makabe and his nemesis, General Tadokoro being particular highlights. Kurosawa's framing is a pleasure to behold whether in intimate scenes or with the beautiful countryside as a backdrop.

Another pleasure in this film is spotting the Star Wars reference points - Mifune is Obi-Wan and Han Solo in one, the princess is clearly Leia (although with more fight to her), while the two peasants are R2D2 and C-3PO, although with looser allegiances.

A landmark film by one of the great masters in world cinema.

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