Seven Samurai is probably the benchmark by which all other action movies should be measured. Akira Kurosawa’s longest film and (together with Ikiru) his own favourite of his thirty pictures, the film combines all the director’s qualities: taut pacing, fluid camera technique, dinamic editing, sharp sense of humour and unrivalled feel for swift violent action. The story is set in the turbulent late 16th century, when social order was breaking down under the stress of civil war as rival daimyo (local warlords) battled for supremacy.
The rigid caste divisions that governed the Japanese society held firm. Kurosawa, with his own samurai origins, acknowledges the degeneration of the caste, but contrasts the corrupt, debased version of the samurai code of bushido (the way of warrior), obsessed with material reward, with the Zen-based belief and altruism personified by Kambei, Takashi Shimura. Kambei comes to the aid of the threatened village being assigned with choosing his samurai. The sequence in which the team is formed, each man with his character concisely differentiated, is a model of visual ingenuity and narrative economy. To achieve the realism he was aiming for, Kurosawa shot nearly the entire movie on location. To ensure the continuity of the image in the final battle, he used three cameras at the same time to allow the action to be unbroken.