A veteran samurai (Takashi Shimura) answers a village’s request for protection from marauding bandits who return yearly to rape, kill and steal. He assembles a team of six other samurai, and they teach the townspeople how to defend themselves.
When forty bandits attack the village, a fight to the death ensues.
Although set in 16th-century Japan, The Seven Samurai, as director Akira Kurosawa readily acknowledged, was heavily indebted to Hollywood Westerns, particularly to John Ford.
From its opening shot of galloping horsemen silhouetted against the horizon to its story of an elite team of warriors being assembled to protect a threatened village, the film was innovative with its influences – it would eventually be remade by John Sturges as The Magnificent Seven (1960).
The film takes time – a leisurely 207 minutes – establishing the individual characters of the samurai team and detailing their ambiguous relationships with the villagers they are hired to protect.
It builds steadily to the magnificent climactic rain-drenched battle scene, which is rendered in an orgy of chaotic, kinetic action, all slashing limbs and splashing mud.
Kurosawa’s genius for pictorial composition and choreographed movement made The Seven Samurai a perfect example of epic bravura filmmaking.