Seven Samurai (1954) Review

Director: Akira Kurosawa

Genre(s): Action, Adventure, Drama

Runtime: 207 minutes

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

IMDb Page

Let’s get controversial for a second…and I’m talking very controversial. I’m really not that big of a fan of Seven Samurai (its original Japanese title being “Shichinin No Samurai“), the landmark 1954 picture about a team of, well, seven samurai being hired to protect a defenseless village from roaming bandits in the 1500s. This film may have laid the groundwork for the modern action-adventure movie, but I find its American western remake The Magnificent Seven (1960) far more compelling.

Compared to Seven Samurai, its 1960 remake boasts a more riveting musical score (by Elmer Bernstein), that’s pure blood-and-thunder (although Fumio Hayasaka’s score for the 1954 flick is no slouch). The Magnificent Seven also has more interesting characters, a more iconic cast, swifter pacing, and more thrilling action set-pieces. While Seven Samurai is largely about class relations between the samurai and the peasants, the 1960 picture has an intriguing Wilsonian element to it, thanks to its international settings.

The 1954 movie we’re talking about right now does feel surprisingly modern at times, though. It makes frequent use of wipe transitions and even has a couple of brief uses of slow-motion. I find the middle act, in all honesty, to be a bit on the boring side, but the first and third parts are fine. The last act is one action sequence after another, but these scenes are often more confusing than they are exciting. It should also be noted that this feature is about three-and-a-half hours long, so save it for an open afternoon.

I saw The Magnificent Seven long before viewing Seven Samurai, so that’s bound to influence how I see this work. Yes, the latter movie has inspired countless filmmakers over the years and left just about as big a mark on cinema (especially the action-adventure genre) as you can leave, but it’s just not for me. The samurai picture is certainly more influential than the western one, but I’ll take The Magnificent Seven just about any day of the week. It just speaks to me more.

My rating is 6 outta 10.

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