Monday, September 26, 2011
Film Review: 13 Assassins (2011)
13 Assassins would be unremarkable if it was all about the body count. The Lone Wolf and Cub series of samurai films made in the 1970s were just as bloody, but they were short on artistry. Takeshi Miike, the director of 13 Assassins, shows a fine appreciation for the formal pleasures of the best samurai films. In the first half of the film characters are introduced and the plot is developed. Most of these scenes take place inside minimally furnished noble houses. For a director and cinematographer these are demanding scenes because all you're filming are people kneeling and talking in nearly bare rooms. There's very little to engage the eye. Miike makes the scenes come alive with beautifully lit and composed shots that are a pleasure all by themselves. And when the action moves outdoors, Miike and his cameraman are equally adept at framing figures and groups of soldiers against classic Japanese landscapes.
And the swordplay? Top notch, and there's lots of it. Some scenes in the final battle are a little over the top, and the warrior-peasant makes a remarkable recovery from a major injury, but all in all this film has to belong in the Premier League of samurai films.