I love this film. Kurosawa's inspired tale of honour and bravery pays homage to the western genre and is takes those conventions and applies them to the alien environment of feudal Japan. It benefits from fine acting and powerful cinematography to create and enthralling three hours of cinema.Those of you who have seen such disparate works as The Magnificent Seven and A Bug's Life will already be familiar with the tale of besieged and down-trodden peasant villagers turning to hired fighters to protect them from rapacious outlaws.
Kurosawa's epic is the inspiration for these (and other) films, and incredibly this original work, set in an alien environment and cultural background is even more gripping and moving than the Hollywood versions.
The acting is superb all round, form both "the seven" and also the supporting peasant cast. Toshiro Mifune grabs the headlines with his standout role as peasant turned samurai Kikuchiyo(Horst Buchholz should have taken more notes), but Takashi Shimura as veteran Kambei and Daisuke Kato and driven perfectionist Shichiroji also delivery powerful and memorable turns.
The plot is simple and fabulously satisfying, with each individual supporting scene working to weave a rich tapestry. I love the scene where they are testing potential Samurai team members, I love the way Mifune plays the drunk and desperate Kikuchiyo, I love the cinematography which creates, in black and white, scenes that will stay in your mind for weeks.
In all honesty this does feel like a three-hour movie, there is no getting away from its length and the pacing is a million miles away from the MTV stylings of many of today's works; but sit back and relish each scene as there is always something to enjoy during every minute of the running time.Accept no substitutes! This is an awesome film that you NEED to watch! (And then, as other reviewers have suggested, go and watch Yojimbo and Sanjuro, and Ran, and Kagemusha and... and... you'll love 'em!)