FILM: 13 Assassins by Takashi Miike
Most samurai movies do not strive for greatness – because some film-makers know that the mere shimmer of an unsheathed katana blade in a trailer is enough to lure fans into the theater. And the sad thing is that they are right. That is why Takashi Miike’s epic samurai flick ’13 Assasins’ was such a completely delightful surprise – a rare masterpiece which, much like a beautiful samurai blade, was crafted with patience, precision, infinite skill and adoration before ultimately being used to deliver its deadly blow.
While taking cues from the likes of Akira Kurasawa and other masters, Miike has brought new life to the samurai genre and created what is quite simply the best samurai movie this writer has ever seen – and I have seen quite a few. It has a superb sense of realism and attention to historical detail combined with a plot that is deliberately paced almost painfully slow at first in order to set the stage for the glorious, blood-soaked battle royale that explodes across the screen in an epic clash of sword and steel, good and evil.
Set in the age when the samurai culture itself was giving way to modernity and rifles, after what many of the warriors in the film reverently call the ‘great samurai wars. When one samurai is presented with the job of hunting down and assassinating a very powerful and decidedly sadistic samurai lord who terrorizes almost all who cross his path, he happily accepts the task as his last chance to ‘die gloriously. Slowly, he assembles a team of 13 dedicated samurai who accept the call of duty, some more out of a desire for glory than out of any real moral outrage at the deeds of the evil villain they hunt.
This movie was made to be seen on a big screen, with masterful cinematography and epic action sequences. If you have any love for samurai flicks or revenge movies for that matter, this instant classic will be sure to satisfy. And as the ultimate compliment, I am sure Quentin Tarantino is already busy deciding out scenes to steal from.
Although the movie hits theaters tomorrow on April 29th, it has interestingly enough been released before that on VOD, iTunes, Amazon and other services on March 25th.