Big Screen Classics

SEVEN SAMURAI

Director Akira Kurosawa
Year 1954
Starring Toshirô Mifune, Takashi Shimura, Keiko Tsushima
Run Time 207min
Age Policy

18 and up; Children 6 and up will be allowed only with a parent guardian. No children under the age of 6 will be allowed.

Far better writers and reviewers than me have written about SEVEN SAMURAI, so I can only write about what the movie does for me personally. 

I think SEVEN SAMURAI is epic storytelling at its finest, and while there are so many characters to keep track of and so many events in the movie to follow, what makes SEVEN SAMURAI work best is that each of the characters feel fully-developed and whole.  Much is made of Mifune's portrayal of Kikuchiyo, the farmer's son born into poverty who wants to abandon his predestined role, but SEVEN SAMURAI is so strong because of all the characters.  There's Takeshi Shimura's Kambei, the leader, weary of war and yet compelled to do good whenever he can, and I love Shimura in this almost as much as in IKIRU.  His Kambei and his Watanabe could not be more different.  There's Seiji Miyaguchi as Kyuzo, perhaps the most badass samurai of all, and yet even he yearns to live a life of meaning.  Minoru Chiaki's Heihachi is looking for friendship and his good humor helps bring all of the samurai together.  Isao Kimura's Katsushiro is a rich boy playing at being a samurai, and through his eyes we see much of the new generation clashing with the older world's values and ideals.  Yodhio Inaba as Gorobei the tactician and Daisuke Kato as Shichiroji, Kambei's friend and fellow lieutenant round out the seven samurai who for just the food on their plates decide to help save a small farming community from bandits.

I guess what I respond to the most in SEVEN SAMURAI is how the characters interact with each other and give the story resonance and emotion.  SEVEN SAMURAI always feels full because of it.  We care about everyone in the movie - the townspeople wracked with fear and grief, and the samurai, trying to find their place in a world that seemingly has moved on.  We even have some empathy for the bandits, who are probably starving and attack the village out of need and not out of malicious intent.  

Kurosawa seems to be able to see all sides in everything. 

In SEVEN SAMURAI you can see a society in flux, much as Japan was at the time, and how they come from a tragedy so much stronger and bound together is probably one of the movie's most resonant themes.  As the old ways are passed, a new way of life emerges, unattached from the traditions of the past that held them back.

But perhaps what I love most about SEVEN SAMURAI is that it's just so enjoyable to watch.  There may be a stigma attached to it - it's considered one of the greatest movies of all time, after all - but there's nothing homeworky or difficult about SEVEN SAMURAI unless you just flat out don't like reading subtitles, in which case you're likely beyond help.  So many epics fail to achieve what SEVEN SAMURAI does and that's all due to giving us characters we care about, building a rapport with the audience, and telling a compelling story that's about more than just good guys and bad guys.  SEVEN SAMURAI stands the test of time because it's such a great, rich story.  It really isn't more complicated than that.  It's full of action, it's funny, and so rich with emotion and empathy.

Perhaps SEVEN SAMURAI is the grandfather of the modern action movie, but so many of these basic lessons have been lost - it really is about the story, stupid. (Alan Cerny)

 

Other Big Screen Classics Events