Synopsis. Seven Samurai is a 1954 Japanese movie about defenseless villagers that hire seven samurai to combat bandits who steal their crops. The time frame for the movie is 1587 Japan. This film was co-written, edited, and directed by Akira Kurosawa. It is considered one of the most influential films as it is the springboard for the hero films we enjoy today.
Part 1. Villagers recruit samurai. Villagers who are tired of being robbed by bandits seek counsel from the village elder. He recommends that they hire 4 samurai to defend the village. The 4 village men that set out to do the recruiting find it difficult. Most samurai consider the villager’s request an insult. The first samurai recruited is Shimada. He is wise but tired of the fighting lifestyle. The remaining samurai come together and make their way to the village. The samurai divide the villagers into groups and train them as separate units.
Part 2. Samurai and the villagers fight the bandits. The battle between the Samurai and the villagers against the bandits is not boring. Shimada has blocked entry into the village so a single access point is all that remains. Divide and conquer is the game plan. The bandits charge on horseback, the Samurai and the villagers allow one to two bandits on horseback into the village. Then they corral, swarm and kill the bandits. Not all the villagers survive. Not all the samurai survive. The bandits do not survive.
* The film is iconic. I easily see how movie after movie has been inspired by this film. I cannot effectively detail the ripple effect this film has had. But other film lovers can and have. Two reviews of interest: Roger Ebert’s review and Laurence Topham’s review.
* The second half of the film was my favorite. The first half of the film is a bit draggy for my taste. Shimada, the first samuari, is not recruited until the 30 minute mark. Once the band of samurai is formed things started to gel. The second half of the film is very strong. Here is where the word masterpiece applies. The fighting is not beautifully choreographed by today’s standards but it had compelling visuals and action. More importantly the battle was thought out with each section strong and building to the final conclusion of the film.
* There were some wonderful observations throughout the film:
** Offense is harder than defense
** In life one finds friends in the strangest places
** Letting out your feelings bit by bit can work wonders
** You cannot win a battle by defense alone
* There is humor, fun, camaraderie in this film. Kikuchiyo cannot ride a horse to the glee of all. I loved how the samurai and the villagers worked together to defend the village. The class lines were blurred to achieve a common goal.
* One of my favorite moments of the film was when stoic Kyuzo comes back from a solo raid of the bandits camp with a rifle and leaving 2 bandits dead at the camp. He hands the rifle to Shimada and goes to take a nap. Katsushiro utters basically what I was thinking “you are magnificant”. My adjective was awesome.
* The second of my favorite moments of the film was when Kikuchiyo jealous of the kudos Kyuzo received, does his own solo raid. He strips a dead bandit and goes to sit next to the marksman holding a rifle. Once the bandit realizes Kikuchiyo is not a fellow bandit, he runs. But Kikuchiyo kills him and brings the rifle back. However the glory he sought is not earned. Instead Shimada puts him in his place when he utters “There is nothing heroic about selfishly grabbing for glory.” Shimada was a fabulous leader and my favorite of the seven samurai.
* The shot at the end of the movie looking at the mounds for the dead samurai and villagers is striking.
* I respect this film. The second 1.5 hours went quicker than the first 1.5 hours. The characters are solid. The story is interesting. The cinematography is excellent. The direction is tight and well done. This is not one of the greatest films in my book. However, it definitely has impacted films that followed it. I can easily see the Seven Samurari’s influence on the films I have enjoyed. For that alone, this film was worth viewing and earns my respect and thumbs up.