A review of the 1954 classic Japanese film “Seven Samurai”

This Japanese film is for many one of the very best movies not made in the English language and certainly one of the most outstanding works by the great director Akira Kurosawa. Set in 16th century Japan, it tells the tale of farmers who are brought close to starvation by the repeated raids of bandits who take all their produce and decide to engage the services of a disparate group of samurai warriors with Takashi Shijmura in the leading tole.

This black & white work is a masterclass in cinematography and linear storytelling: the plight of the farmers, the recruitment of the samurai, the preparation for resistance, and a battle of attrition. It is a classic action/adventure movie but with elements of social comment, some humour, and even a romance.

Kurosawa takes his time to tell the story and, in the uncut version, the film runs to just three minutes short of three and a half hours (when shown in the cinema, there is an intermission). Apparently the Japanese director was inspired by the westerns of John Ford and, in turn, “Seven Samurai” was remade by Hollywood as “The Magnificent Seven” in 1960 and again in 2016.


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