Seven Samurai (Shichinin no samurai)

The Seven Samurai

The farmers have won. Not us.

Akira Kurosawa is widely regarded as one of the greatest foreign directors of all time, and he has six of his films on the must see list, only one of which I have yet reviewed, so you know what that means; time for a Kurosawa-a-thon. And what better way to start it off than with that ultimate classic of Kurosawa’s, currently sitting pretty at number 17 on IMDb’s Top 250, The Seven Samurai. When even in today’s modern world of releases like the Avengers and Dark Knight, and the constant Shawshank-Godfather feud, when this film still manages to stick in the Top 20 on IMDb, it’s gotta be something special, and it certainly is.

A group of farmers from a poor village, faced with an impending attack by bandits, go out to hire samurai to defend them. Upon finding one good-hearted man, he sets out to recruit others and, having done so, they make their home in the village and meet its people before readying themselves for the attack to come. A simple premise, cut to length by Kurosawa’s masterful direction; the film is long, but always feels perfectly paced. Kurosawa’s regular leading man, Toshiro Mifune, here appears as the hot-headed oafish seventh would-be samurai Kikuchiyo, who always provides a bit of unintentional comic relief whenever he takes center stage. The rest of the characters each are singular and unique, and each brings something personal to the film in their own way. Where Kurosawa succeeds is in the relationships between the characters, which forms most of the content of the film, and is always entertaining and engaging; it is only during the last hour or so that the film has sustained action sequences, and they are still a poetry all their own, even (and especially) with the lack of clanging sound effects.

After this was over, I went through my mental list and tried to come up with ways to which I thought the film could’ve been improved. I couldn’t think of a single thing that wouldn’t otherwise take away from some other aspect of the experience. Sure, they could’ve added a more pervasive soundtrack, or cut a few scenes to make the film a more manageable length, but it just wouldn’t be the same experience; it would be an altogether separate film entirely, and I’m not sure I would want to touch what this film has succeeded in making. It just does what it does so well that one can’t help but treat it as a fragile object, lest they mar the concept of perfection that this film so easily gives off. I don’t know if I can call it perfect, but at the very least, I can call it flawless, which is very nearly the same thing.

Arbitrary Rating: 10/10

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2 thoughts on “Seven Samurai (Shichinin no samurai)

    • I remember when this was number 5 on IMDb’s Top 250 list. It was there for so long I remember it being the anomaly to the hordes of more modern films that sought after a top 10 spot. The film’s fallen to 17 since then, but still a testament to the quality and mainstream appeal of Kurosawa’s work that it’s managed to stick around still.

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