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Seven Samurai This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

Seven Samurai is both hailed as Akira Kurosawa's magnum opus and as one of the greatest films ever made. Having just finished the film, I probably wouldn't agree with either of those statements. I will admit, however, that the film's indeed fantastic and a certifiable landmark in cinematic history. Incredibly innovative in its execution of narrative, the film created and aided several tropes into becoming household cliches for the next 50+ years. Despite not being Kurosawa's best work, the film's still a grand sweeping adventure.

The film starts with the revelation that a small village, comprised of only farmers and peasants, is going to be attacked by marauding bandits as soon as harvest time has come to an end. This news leaves the villagers divided about whether to surrender to the thieves or to fight back against the bandits. Consulting the village elder, the decision is made to hire masterless samurai, or ronin, to protect the villagers from the upcoming bandit attack. A fellowship of seven samurai is soon made, each with a distinct personality, and the film follows the group as they begin to form, prepare for the oncoming battle, and reflect on their respective lives.

The film is very character-orientated, there's no denying that. Each of the samurai has their own distinct personality and they're all likable in their own way. Kambei, for instance, represents the wise old sage of the seven samurai - he's cool and collected in the heat of battle but has slowly become war-weary over the years. Kikuchiyo, on the other hand, is a temperamental and zany warrior that gives off a sense of humor and deadly skill. All of the samurai are interesting characters are interesting, but, if for some reason, you aren't a fan of one samurai, you'll certainly be able to identify with another. Even in the quieter moments, such as when Katsushiro passes Kikuchiyo at the well, you can feel the subtle use of emotion portrayed through the script and through the actors.

The visuals are also quite fluid - especially for a 1950's film. The camerawork shows off the details of the countryside and the details on the samurai's faces. Before Sergio Leone ever got into the movie business, Akira Kurosawa started using the wide closeups in this film to convey style and emotion without using any dialogue. I'm not saying Sergio Leone copied or ripped off Kurosawa, because I adore Leone and he's my favorite director of all-time, but it's easy to see some of Leone's influences in this film. Another interesting thing to note about Kurosawa's visuals is how he portrays violence in his films. Unlike in most films, where the violence romanticized in some form, the violence in Kurosawa's film are completely chaotic and unshaped by camera lenses. The screen feels cluttered, hectic, and the sheer chaos that results from the violence is probably more realistic than most action films.

The film is definitely long. At a runtime of 3 1/2 hours, the film's not a picnic when it comes to maintaining patience during the slower sequences. Because of how streamlined the action and characters are, the film surprisingly doesn't drag that often because of how enrapturing the setup is. It does drag sometimes, I'll admit, but these moments are worth sitting through for the better sequences.

Though the film suffers from a few hitches, Seven Samurai is a fantastic film directed by a fantastic director. Genre-spanning, cliche-creating, and innovative, the film helped to create the formal three-act structure that most films follow. It's a cinematic gem with few rough edges.



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