Directed By: Akira Kurosawa
Starring: Toshirô Mifune, Takashi Shimura, Keiko Tsushima
Tag line: "The Mighty Warriors Who Became the Seven National Heroes of a Small Town"
Trivia: Akira Kurosawa's original idea for the film was to make it about a day in the life of a samurai, beginning with him rising from bed and ending with him making some mistake that required him to kill himself to save face
Of all the marvelous films that director Akira Kurosawa made, including such classics as Rashomon, Yojimbo,and Ran, Seven Samurai is my favorite. A thrilling adventure inspired by the westerns of John Ford (who Kurosawa was a great admirer of), Seven Samurai would itself be re-imagined in 1960 as a pretty entertaining American western, John Sturges’ The Magnificent Seven.
Set in the 16th century, Seven Samurai tells the tale of a small Japanese farming village that, once a year, is raided by a roving gang of bandits. Unable to defend themselves, they ask Kambei (Takashi Shimura), a samurai living in a nearby town, for help. Though the villagers cannot pay Kambei for his services, the professional warrior is moved by their situation, and promises to recruit additional samurai to assist in their struggle. In all, Kambei convinces six more, including the brash Kikuchiyo (Toshiro Mifune), to join him, and together, these seven teach the villagers how to fight, and stand with them as they face off against the enemy, who outnumber the samurai by more than four to one.
The story is simple enough, yet the manner in which Kurosawa presents it is anything but; throughout Seven Samurai, the great director employs a number of cinematic tricks that, while quite innovative at the time, have since become commonplace (like his use of slow-motion in the ending battle). Along with its impressive style, the movie also delves into the relationship between the samurai and the people they’ve agreed to help, many of whom don’t fully trust their "guests" (some even hide their daughters, out of fear the samurai will try to rape them). It’s an interesting contrast: the skilled warriors and the humble farmers, and Kurosawa examines this unusual dichotomy to its fullest. The film’s best sequence, however, is the final battle, a stirring confrontation that takes place in a driving rainstorm, during which the samurai and the villagers, fighting side by side, do everything they can to hold off, then defeat, their common foe.
This climactic conflict is among the most exciting action sequences ever committed to film, and Seven Samurai is, in turn, one of the cinema’s most enduring masterpieces.