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(Review originally written at 11 May 2006)

Akira Kurosawa has got to be one of the most influential and inspiring movie-directors of all time. Back in 1958, there wasn't really an action movie genre. This was before movies like "North by Northwest" and "Dr. No" were made, which both probably are the most influential and earliest 'modern' form action movies. The action movie genre had yet to be given its trusted form with its formulaic elements in it back in 1958. This movie is obviously an early step toward 'modern' action movies and it obviously inspired many later movies, both action movies as well as movies in other genres. Of course the most notable and best known example of this is the first Star Wars trilogy. Lucas was obviously inspired by this movie and he uses several plot elements, characters treatment and sequences from this movie in his Star Wars movies. Some references are more notable than the others and you'll probably discover new similarities on every new viewing.

The story is simple but it's made unique through its storytelling. Instead of focusing on the main big heroic character, the main characters of the movie are two simple greedy peasants. The story is mostly told from their point of view which gives the story a whole different and interesting new dimension. It's a surprising and perhaps even daring approach of film-making but it works surprisingly well. It's not the story that makes this movie an unique one but it's truly the way of storytelling that does.

The characters are constantly on the move or traveling, which gives the movie an extra sense of adventure.

The whole way of acting looks totally different than the acting from European countries, America and the rest of the world. The style of acting might look a bit weird and perhaps also over-the-top these days, especially since we're simply just not accustomed to this way of acting. It gives the movie a style and feeling of its own but it at the same time makes the movie quite hard and not always as likable to watch. But the actors did their job and they served the story well, especially Toshirô Mifune, who always is a pleasure to watch in a Kurosawa movie. All of the characters are given a very strong own personality in the movie.

The setting in the movie are beautiful and the cinematography is good and nimble. Masaru Satô delivers a fine musical score for the movie, that fits the movie and its atmosphere like a glove.

The movie has some great action sequences in it, that maybe are not too big or grand to watch but the way they are captured on screen and put in the story makes them very spectacular and awesome to watch at the very same time. The whole spear fight after the already fantastic chase sequence was an absolute highlight for me. It was absolutely brilliantly directed, timed and choreographed. Perhaps one of the very best and certainly most memorable directed sequence from Kurosawa. Of course there is plenty more action to enjoy in this movie, although perhaps not as much as you would expect at first sight. The movie is more adventurous and entertain than action-filled to watch.

Yet again Kurosawa does not disappoint and delivers a masterpiece in his own unique way and with his own unique style. This movie is perhaps also more accessible than his other, mainly earlier, movies and the movie will surely entertain, even when you're not familiar with other Kurosawa movies or his style of movie-making and storytelling.

9/10

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About Frank Veenstra

Watches movies...writes about them...and that's it for now.
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