I remeber vividly watching 'The Seven Samurai' / 'Yojimbo' for the first time and marvelling at the masterful strokes of the director and the sheer craft of the story telling. With '13 Assassins' you will feel the same, it is up their with the greats of eastern cinema, learning from its past and taking from the recent times, you have the style of Kurosawa wit hthe bloody drenched gorgeousness of Takashi Miike. One of the most important films on cinema in the last ten years.
13 Assassins is a remake of an old black and white samurai film with Takashi Miike directing. I am new to the film and to Miike so this is a great introduction to both. The set-up is simple. Corrupt and evil young lord is hunted down by 13 samurai who know that they must succeed or else their lands will eventually be under the control of the young heir. Their mission isn't legal and their mark knows they are coming.
The first half (just over actually) is a set-up for the final 50 minutes. Its dialogue heavy and covers the formation of the 13 and their plans to ambush their mark and his troops. If there is one criticism of the first half then it would be that not all the characters are fleshed out enough that you discern them in the last part. However, its brilliantly shot and paced. Pace is something this film does well. Then once our 13 have set the trap we get to the second half of the film. The last fifty minutes. I read that the last fifty minutes was an extended fight sequence and struggled to believe this. Having watched it I can vouch that it is a thrilling, bloody and brilliant battle that lasts throughout with pace and planning. The whole sequence works and it is incredibly well planned and executed. Whilst its hard to follow the characters at times it fizzes along with an ever increasing body count until we get to the conclusion. Its hard not to feel a little dazed by the whole battle at the end.
The film works on two levels. Firstly it shows the cultural side of the era and also the slow paced political manoeuvrings that happened. In the first half this really worked for me and I enjoyed that aspect a lot. However, when the film cuts loose it really does so with style and vision and you are left in awe of the production planning. If you don't mind subtitles and blood and want something other than a traditional action film then you will be well served by this and can certainly do worse than investing your time and money in watching 13 Assassins.
I've never seen a "samurai" film except for the Last Samurai with Tom cruise so I wasn't sure if it was my type of film but I decided to buy it due to recommendations and the bargain price. I must say that it was amazing with pretty spectacular acting even down to the child that was tied up. The cinematography was really well done and you can imagine that this was set in the 1800s easily. I would recommend it on blu-ray for the landscapes. The main actors are well written, and funny at times which you can't see from the trailer and because they are such good actors you start to care about the 13 and view them as real people and not invincible soldiers.
There is a lot of violence as you can imagine with some harrowing scenes but they don't really seem exploitative like Tarantino's films and are more to show the brutality of the time and are realistic. The last hour is amazing and just flies by.