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Seven Samurai
Reviewer: Aaron Murphy 02/17/2007

In 16th Century Japan, bandits are terrorizing farming villages that are unable to protect themselves from attack, losing their entire yearly crops to them.  After secretly finding out that their village is going to be raided, again, a farming village decides that it must hire some samurai to help protect them during the oncoming battle.  Eventually finding seven samurai that are willing to help them for only 3 meals of rice a day, these samurai start training the villagers and turning their peaceful village into a fortress.  With the battle quickly approaching, will the samurai and their newly trained villager militia be able to stop the raiding bandits from destroying their village and taking not only their crops, but their lives in the process?
After purchasing the entire anime series Samurai 7, I decided that I should really watch the source material that it’s loosely based on beforehand.  Seven Samurai, directed by Akira Kurosawa in 1954, is a movie that I had heard a whole lot about, but had never actually seen.  Everything basically calls it a masterpieceand various online sites, a la Netflix and IMDB, rate it very highly as well. So I started up the DVD with expectations of greatness, 3 hours and 28 minutes worth of greatness, and it didn’t disappoint in the least.
Seven Samurai initially shows us the horrible plight of the farmers and how absolutely afraid they are of the bandits.  Some of them even say they should just hang themselves as not to be killed by the bandits.  One brave soul really believes that they should fight against them, rather than giving up.  With the village leader’s approval, he goes off with a couple others to a nearby city to “hire” some starving samurai, paying them with 3 meals of rice a day.  The movie spends a lot of time, nearly an hour, finding the samurai, setting up the type of person each one is and how they will contribute to the group.  While this whole process is rather slow, it really allows you to connect with each samurai, to bond with them in a sense.  This really adds to the emotional weight of the movie later on.  Next, the second hour focuses on fortifying the village, training the farmers, and creating drama within the village.  Such as a relationship that forms between one of the samurai and a peasant girl.  This also leads us up to the coming conflict with the bandits, which finishes off the movie.  
One of the things this movie does extremely well is that it makes you feel as if this whole situation really happened, that these cameras were really setup in 16th century Japan capturing the plight of the farmers and their battle against the bandits.  You can feel the pain of the farmers, their fear, and their hope that the samurai will be able to keep their village from ruin, something that most movies are rarely able to achieve.  
Since this movie was made in 1954, the actual film/picture quality is somewhat lacking, as in its rather grainy and spotty.  Now, that’s not to say that the actual scenes are of poor quality, for the cinematography of this movie is really top notch, just not the film itself.  I was watching the old Criterion Collection, but there is a new Criterion Collection release that claims it has cleaned up visuals with a newly restored, high-definition digital transfer.  That’s the version you should look at buying if you are interested (This is also the version I have listed under shopping at the end of the review).  The music is another winner and while it’s rarely used, when it is it offers great effect to the scene at hand, especially the more dramatic pieces.
Seven Samurai is driven by its characters and it does an excellent job of keeping you entranced and interested in them throughout the entire movie.  I highly recommend Seven Samurai to anyone who is even slightly interested after reading this review.  Do yourself a favor and check it out, you will not be disappointed.
They should have just trained all the villagers to shoot bows!

Seven Samurai
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Review Title:
Seven Samurai
Alternative Titles:
Shichi-nin no samurai
Number of Episodes:
110 Minutes
General Rating:
5 out of 5 stars
Suitable For:
Action, Samurai
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