Josh Daws’s review published on Letterboxd:
July 2016 Scavenger Hunt | #29 A movie directed by Akira Kurosawa.
‘Seven Samurai’ is most definitely not a film best served by just one watch, even if its running time of over three hours makes a re-watch a slightly daunting prospect. Luckily, however, it doesn’t feel nearly as long whilst watching it. It does still feel overlong and there are some baggy sections, but it’s still absolutely compelling. Kurosawa knows so well here that in order to build an epic you have to start from the ground up. You can shoot as much fighting and mountains as you like but it doesn’t mean anything if you don’t care about the characters. Here you absolutely care about the characters. You really get a sense of the pain this community has gone through and the weariness their sacrifices have caused. Their anger, their frustration and their desperation all comes from a very tangible, understandable place and you totally root for them in their struggle. The samurai characters, too, are well-rounded, likeable and engaging personalities, with their internal conflicts making them all the more interesting. You’re completely able to buy them as heroes, each within a certain archetype, and they’re all brilliantly acted.
The action sequences may not be as visually breath-taking as those in ‘Ran’ (the only other Kurosawa film I’ve seen so far) but they’re still incredibly well orchestrated and diverse. He certainly knew how to make an image look iconic with the use of fire and water, such as the scene of immolation that’s really shocking and stays with you. As with ‘Ran’, it’s also a very spiky film, both in terms of its visual style, particularly through the abundance of pointed weaponry, but also in terms of the way in which the dialogue is delivered. It gives the film a real personality that is distinctively Kurosawa. Despite this, I did at points, particularly during the action sequences, begin to get characters confused and it does start to become unclear which side is which and whether or not we should be pleased that a certain house should be burning at a certain point. I’m sure this is my own fault and hopefully this will be something that becomes clearer upon the inevitable second viewing. However, as a visionary spectacle and achievement in deft storytelling, it’s incredibly impressive.
Favourite quote: ‘Danger always strikes when everything seems fine’.