The Hidden Fortress (kakushi-toride No San-akunin) Reviews
In the middle of a war, two peasants trying to escape the fighting stumble across a man who persuades them to help him move his gold to a safer area. He turns out to be Rokurota Makabea, a famous general in the army of Akizuki, the invaded country. The two peasants scheme to enrich themselves at the General's expense, but he foils their every attempt. However, he is also transporting someone more precious than gold - Princess Yuki, the heir to the Akizuki throne. There is a bounty on her head and the journey will be a perilous one.
Not Akira Kurosawa's best work - far from it. Pretty slow-moving and dull, with little profundity or grittiness. Essentially one long, linear road movie.
Starts off slowly and never seems to find even second gear. Every scene gets drawn out to the max. No real focus either, just a long winding walk of a movie.
Making things worse is the presence of the two peasants. Incredibly irritating and silly characters, they are largely responsible for the movie feeling so lacking in substance. Whether through bad writing, direction, casting or performance - I suspect a combination of the four - they have a profoundly negative impact on the movie.
I love how the story just chugs along very easily as if a genius wrote the story out. Even though the movie is in black and white, I can definitely tell that the locations used are beautiful. It makes me want to visit that part of Japan or wherever it was filmed. That being said, the way the movie was filmed is wonderful as well. Very elegantly done.
Matacischi and Tahei bring the comedy and humor to the movie resembling the likes of R2D2 and C3PO. Kurosawa's famous use of fog makes itself present again.
Overall, splendiferous movie with great characters and plot.
This is where Toshiro Mifune joins the movie and suddenly elevates it to another level. His interactions with the peasants is priceless because he is always two steps ahead of them. He also adds a lot of charm and gravitas to any character he portrays. Misa Uehara is superb as the strong princess who pretends to be mute for a large portion of the movie. Her clear dominance over Mifune?s character is exciting to watch because it makes her the most important character in the film despite the fact that she barely speaks. There are a few other vital roles in the movie but this quartet are the ones that work together the longest and I love the arc of their story.
There were some moments where I longed for some of the more dramatic samurai fights that I?ve seen in a couple of other Kurosawa films. The most significant fight in the film is done with spears instead of swords which seems a bit clunky, even if the scene still has a lot of intense dramatic moments. The plot carried The Hidden Fortress despite some minor tweaks I would have enjoyed seeing. I found this to be a well-made film that I would gladly revisit. You can certainly see a few places where George Lucas drew inspiration from The Hidden Fortress in the story and with some of the character creation. But I was glad to see plenty of differences so you couldn?t accuse Star Wars of being a remake, at most it is an homage to this classic.
It's kind of a straight forward action type picture but when it eventually gets rolling, you really are invested in it.
Not to say that the story is bad, but when compared to other Kurosawa films, the best parts of Hidden Fortress pale in comparison. The use of peasants as an introduction to a story with a much larger scope is cool, but done better in Seven Samurai. The same goes for it's period detail.
At over two hours it is treading into the run time of some of his epics, which does not feel justified by the much smaller character driven story.
I probably sound like I didn't like the movie, but it's really not a bad movie by any means. This is Kurosawa at a lower point and it still years ahead of the competition.
It is often mentioned how influential this film was in setting the building blocks for Lucas and Spielberg's blockbusters. As for setting a template for Star Wars, it was the weakest element of Hidden Fortress that carried over to the space fantasy. The two peasants are the banchmark for annoying comic relief characters like c-3P0 and R2D2, but I was thinking they were also much like Jar Jar Binks, sans Jamaican accent.
There are several scenes in this film that, on their own, could define an entire movie. Criterion's restoration leaves nothing to be desired.
Hidden Fortress is perhaps one of the great auteur's more understated masterpieces, but viewers ought to remember that without it, we wouldn't have Star Wars, and we'd likely have missed out on many a Sergio Leone western along the way. Elegant in its simplicity, the film is peppered with good humour and unforgettable exchanges - more than a handful of which have have left indelible marks on modern cinema as we know it.
The film is undoubtedly overlong, with a tendency to sway softly between its moments of greatness, but this only renders each all the more rewarding, reflective and resonant. So sit back, and let poetry unfold before your very eyes.