AKA: 7 Samurai; The Seven Samurai; The 7 Samurai; Shichinin No Samurai
[dir: Akira Kurosawa; prod: Sojiro Motoki; writer: Akira Kurosawa, Shinobu Hashimoto, Hideo Oguni]
Cast: Toshiro Mifune, Takashi Shimura, Daisuke Kato, Isao Kimura, Minoru Chiaki, Seiji Miyaguchi, Yoshio Inaba, Kamatari Fujiwara, Yoshio Kosugi, Bokuzen Hidari, Keiko Tsushima, Yukiko Shimazaki
Running Time: 207 min.
Plot: A desperate village hires seven samurai to protect it from marauders in this crown jewel of Japanese cinema
This movie was the first one of its kind in a lot of ways. It’s the first movie in which a group of people is recruited, on screen. It’s possible the first really grittily realistic chambara (samurai film). And it was the first all-action film probably since The Great Train Robbery. For four hours, this movie MOVES. The plot doesn’t advance very fast-the story of a village of farmers who, desperate to defend themselves against an army of bandits, hire seven masterless samurai to protect them, plays itself out very slowly and deliberately-but there is constant movement on the screen. Characters race from one place to the next. Horses thunder through the village. The samurai crash through the water past a burning mill. And any dialogue scenes are far from sedate with Toshiro Mifune raging through them.
Mifune had already become a screen icon in Japan with Kurosawa’s Drunken Angel, and he had become a star the world over with Kurosawa’s Rashomon. This is yet another of his fabulous, masterful performances for the director. As in Rashomon, he rages constantly, but this time we are given pathos with which to understand his rage. And Takashi Shimura, brilliant in films like Stray Dog and Ikiru, turns in his biggest, perhaps his only, headlining performance as the leader of the Samurai. The film has a great humanist majesty and sweep to it, with subtle, witty writing and the most exciting action and camerawork of the time. Great for its era and great nowadays, this great big movie hasn’t lost its luster in the 50+ years since its creation.