Surely the most famous samurai film ever madeoand with good reason. With its epic scopeoit runs over three hours, and earns every second of itoits masterfully staged action scenes, its deft characterisation, its humour and its compassion, Seven Samurai set the template for every samurai movie that followed. A small farming village beset by rapacious bandits decides they must buy protectionothey will hire ronin, masterless samurai who will work for no more than their food. They manage to persuade seven warriors, led by the wise and experienced Kambei (Takashi Shimura) to come to their defence. Six of the group are real samurai; the seventh, the noisiest and most ferocious of all, is a would-be samurai, a farmer’s son determined to become a warrior (Toshiro Mifune). Kurosawa paces his narrative superbly. Episodes of violent combat give way to quiet passages where the uneasy relations between the samurai and their peasant hosts (who regard them as only marginally better than bandits) are played out. The final, climactic battle, fought out in mud and torrential rain, is one of cinema’s all-time great action sequences. Kurosawa’s love of westerns is evident throughout the film; Hollywood repaid the compliment by remaking it as The Magnificent Seven. Japan, 1954. English subtitles. Black and white. 206 mins.