13 Assassins (Takashi Miike) 2010
13 Assassins is set in the final days of the samurai. Aging samurai Shinzaemon is hired to kill an evil lord before he gains any more power. He gets together a group of assassins to strike when he is en route to his home kingdom because his protection will be at his weakest (relatively speaking anyway).
I guess this film can be most likened to Seven Samurai, in which the first half is establishing the environment, assembling our team, and constructing a plan. The second half is the confrontation but instead of bandits, it is a lord with army protection.
I hate to say this is Miike’s most mainstream film cause it may sound like he is phoning in this movie. I only mean it in the sense the plot is more straightforward than anything else Miike has done so far. Even though the story is straightforward, Miike uses all his talents to make it as enjoyable as possible. The landscapes are beautifully shot, the action is perfectly staged, and there is still that gore you come to expect from a Miike film.
The best part of this movie is, by far, the climactic end battle between the 13 assassins and the massive force the lord has. This action scene goes on for a long time and is just great. There are so many downright badass scenes as Shinzaemon’s plan comes together. Everything is just shot so well and the scene is established so precisely that it is exciting from beginning to end. Miike does a hell of a job here.
If I were to have gripes about 13 Assassins it would be mainly stemming from the first half. It does drag just a tad and without seeing it again I can’t really explain why so I’ll apologize for not being as descriptive as I usually am. I also feel like they don’t do as well as they could in developing the characters more. We spend so much time finding the titular 13 assassins that we don’t really get to know them as people before the main showdown.
Those complaints are relatively small compared to the film as a whole. Overall this is a beautifully shot, well acted, and very exciting samurai film. I think this film is accessible to everyone and is well worth the watch. Highly recommended.