This file was generated 2002-06-09 04:23 GMT. This movie's information hasn't changed since 2001-01-28.
Scott Ventura >> Movie Commentary >> January 2001 >> Seven Samurai
Nothing in Seven Samurai is done on a small scale. The length of the original edit, 207 minutes, is a testament to that. Akira Kurosawa has a reputation not unlike that of Stanley Kubrick, which helps to put things in perspective. There are elaborate battle sequences with men on horseback being met by dozens of foot soldiers. The cast is bafflingly large, with no less than a dozen important characters to track. Other than that, the story is mercifully easy to follow, especially if you've seen later homages like A Bug's Life. The mix of recruiting, training, defending, attacking, and philosophizing ensure that Seven Samurai doesn't drag, even at three-and-a-half hours. The intrigue in the fickle relationships between the samurai and the farmers gives the movie a human side so often lacking in big action epics.
Sadly, I didn't find the movie to be particularly dazzling. Only half of the main characters registered consistently in my mind. When some of them were killed off, I was hard pressed to remember which one it had been. I also had trouble maintaining the associations of farmers and characteristics. Even now, I can see their faces and remember the names, but not which name goes with which face! Perhaps the distraction of reading the subtitles hampered me, since I had no trouble remembering the ensemble cast of The Great Escape. Regardless, I can't really recommend the time investment to people who aren't interested in seeing how it influenced so many films after it.
Most of the characters are given enough screen time to become real, despite the screechy overacting of some of the actors. I was particularly annoyed by the farmer whose face is permanently frozen in an open-mouthed frown. I enjoyed Takashi Shimura as the head samurai most of all. He uses the exact kind of understatement that I expect from semi-mystical swordsmen, but with the ability to crack a joke. Toshirô Mifune's work here is widely hailed, but I found it overbearing and clownish.