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A Look Back at ‘Seven Samurai’

Toshiro Mifune as Kikuchiyo in Seven Samurai Image Copyright Toho

Revisit This Classic 70 Years Later

One of the greatest achievements a film can receive is to be influential. Having filmmakers being inspired by a movie and trying to take the things that worked about, but do it in their own way is something special. A film that is largely considered as one of the most influential in cinema history is none other than Seven Samurai (1954). Directed by the legendary Akira Kurosawa, the film follows seven Samurai who are hired by a town made up of farmers to help fend off a band of raiders. In honor of the film’s upcoming 70th anniversary, take a trip back to the 1950s and revisit this beloved classic. Spoilers Ahead! 

Different Styles of Samurai 

Despite certain members of the group getting more screen time and development than others, they all feel distinct from one another. Kambei (Takashi Shimura) is more often the stoic leader of the group, but also will sometimes crack a joke to ease the tension. Katsushirō (Isao Kimura) can be enthusiastic and yet can be scared due to his inexperience as a Samurai. Kikuchiyo (Toshiro Mifune) can be reckless but at the same time, also displays boastful bravery, particularly in the film’s climax. Kyûzo (Seiji Miyaguchi) is more reserved but is also highly skilled in combat. Shichirōji (Daisuke Kato) is very friendly but at the same time isn’t afraid to be strict with the others. Heihachi (Minoru Chiaki) is observant and pretty mellow. They all stand out from one another which helps make them more memorable.

It’s interesting to see how their characters evolve. Katsushirō starts off excited about fighting alongside fellow samurai and learning from them only to become more jaded once faced with the harsh reality of battle. Kikuchiyo initially makes a lot of mistakes that sometimes negatively affect the other characters but later on, he selflessly fights off the raiders to save someone else knowing what will happen to him.

Takashi Shimura as Kambei Shimada in Seven Samurai Image copyright belongs to Toho

Different Styles of Samurai 

Despite certain members of the group getting more screen time and development than others, they all feel distinct from one another. Kambei (Takashi Shimura) is more often the stoic leader of the group, but also will sometimes crack a joke to ease the tension. Katsushirō (Isao Kimura) can be enthusiastic and yet can be scared due to his inexperience as a Samurai. Kikuchiyo (Toshiro Mifune) can be reckless but at the same time, also displays boastful bravery, particularly in the film’s climax. Kyûzo (Seiji Miyaguchi) is more reserved but is also highly skilled in combat. Shichirōji (Daisuke Kato) is very friendly but at the same time isn’t afraid to be strict with the others. Heihachi (Minoru Chiaki) is observant and pretty mellow. They all stand out from one another which helps make them more memorable.

It’s interesting to see how their characters evolve. Katsushirō starts off excited about fighting alongside fellow samurai and learning from them only to become more jaded once faced with the harsh reality of battle. Kikuchiyo initially makes a lot of mistakes that sometimes negatively affect the other characters but later on, he selflessly fights off the raiders to save someone else knowing what will happen to him.

The Action Feels Real

While the choreography of Seven Samurai is not flashy. What helps make the fight scenes stand out from the others is how the action is portrayed. Here it’s a lot more grounded and very realistic. There isn’t over-the-top fight choreography with lots of wires and stunt work, the fight scenes are very quick, violent, and rough, leaving little time to react while feeling almost documentary-like. Immersing the audience into the world and feeling what the characters feel. Adding tension, especially with the raiders having gunpowder and the samurai resorting to strategy. Now films that do have lots of choreography and stunt work can be good, but the action style has to match the style of the movie and for Seven Samurai, the action here fits with the time period of the film. 

Themes Of Unity, Failure, and Service

Aside from the action and characters, another aspect that makes this film so iconic is the themes it presents. A big one is unity. There are of course Seven Samurai coming together and stopping the raiders, but also the Samurai training the farmers to fight back and stand up for themselves. The audience sees the villagers at the start being scared and helpless, later on doing anything to get the Samurai to help them. By the end of the movie, they have become capable of taking on the raiders themselves along with the Samurai. 

Another theme this film explores is failure. Four of the samurai die. Even though they were successful in stopping the raiders, Kurosawa doesn’t portray the samurai as the victors. Even Kambei says that the victory belongs to the farmers. However, the word samurai means “to serve”, the irony being that samurai often dedicated their lives to honor and being in service to others. Here Kurosawa could be exploring the nature of the failure, pertaining to those who dedicated their life to the sword and service.

Yoshio Inaba as Gorōbei Katayama, Toshiro Mifune as Kikuchiyo, Daisuke Kato as Schirōji, Isao Kimura as Katsushirō Okamoto, Minoru Chiaki as Heihachi Hayashida, Takashi Shimura as Kambei Shimada, and Seiji Miyaguchi as Kyûyô in Seven Samurai | Image Copyright belongs to Toho

The Legacy Of Seven Samurai 

In the years following this movie, it has not only been declared one of Kurosawa’s best works but also one of the greatest movies of all time. The film was loosely remade with The Magnificent Seven (1960), which has become influential in its own right. The Star Wars franchise is notorious for borrowing elements from Seven Samurai and other movies by Kurosawa. The episode “Bounty Hunters” from the series, Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2008-2014; 2020), heavily borrows from the plot of Seven Samurai and even dedicated the episode to Kurosawa. In the end, Seven Samurai is a special kind of film that cannot be fully replicated, nor should it be. Having paved the way for future films, this movie will never be forgotten. 

Seven Samurai is currently available on Max.

Seven Samurai Rotten Tomatoes Classics Trailer

Source: Dead Talk Live

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I am from Michigan. I am a recent graduate of Bowling Green State University majoring in Film Production with a minor in Media Production.
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Omid Rad is a freelance writer, movie lover and overall geek.