Seven Samurai

Review No. 594

A solemn adventure movie, maybe one of the solemnest.



English: “Seven Samurai”
Kanji Japanese: “七人の侍”
Romaji Japanese: “Shichinin no Samurai”

Director — Akira Kurosawa
Producer — Sojiro Motoki
Screenplay — Mr. Kurosawa, Shinobu Hashimoto & Hideo Oguni

The Seven Samurai:
Takashi Shimura — Kambei Shimada
Toshiro Mifune — Kikuchiyo
Isao Kimura — Katsushirō Okamoto
Yoshio Inaba — Gorōbei Katayama
Daisuke Katō — Shichirōji
Minoru Chiaki — Heihachi Hayashida
Seiji Miyaguchi — Kyūzō
With Bokuzen Hidari, Kamatari Fujiwara, Keiko Tsushima, and Yoshio Tsuchiya.

Distributor — Toho & Columbia Pictures
Release Date — April 26, 1954 (Japan); November 19, 1956 (USA)
Language — Japanese
Country — Japan
Running Time — 3 hours, 27 minutes plus intermission music


The Sengoku jidai was a period in Japanese history with political disorder and almost constant warring.  It lasted from 1467, until sometime after the rise of the Tokugawa shogunate in 1603.  That’s at least 136 trips around the sun marked by nothing but discord.  That we’re given no more history than that is what makes Seven Samurai (in its native language, that’s Shichinin no Samurai) such a great movie.  It isn’t didactic at all, nor does it need to be in order to hold our attention for three and a half hours.  It’s thoroughly bleak, but the characters aren’t.  They enjoy the company of each other enough to forget that they’re in an age of every horror imaginable, and why shouldn’t they?  They’re human, and the acting says so as much as the script.

Seven Samurai was my first experience with writer-director Akira Kurosawa.  He’s revered in Japan in a way that Cecil B. DeMille is revered in America.  I can see why.  The movie isn’t an epic, just a dramatic adventure film, but the manner in which it tells its story is humbled into a two-act play.  It’s not concerned about length so much as it is about holding the audience’s attention.  The story isn’t how you’d imagine a “samurai movie”–not until the end at least.  That’s when the guerrilla warfare enters a story about the Bandits vs. the Samurai.  The samurai know they won’t possibly be at an advantage before the act, though.  Actually it’s just a few men who need to gather ten samurai to kill of thirty bandits.  They only have so much time, and when it runs out, they’re left with only seven.

That’s a good eighty to ninety percent of the movie.  There’s great tension created, usually without any action at all.  The dialogue is the main source of intrigue.  It does begin to wear down during its last ten or twenty minutes, but by the climactic scenes, that transition can only be applauded.  That’s followed by a well played ending, which, in turn, only makes the climax that much more applaudable.  So would that make Seven Samurai one of the saidai foreign movies ever made?

You put ni and ni together.


The Bling Ring

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