Akira Kurosawa was and is considered the master of east-western film-making (in that he made his Japanese films accessible for fans of American westerns while still making the movies his country found popular), and out of the few Kurosawa movies I've had the pleasure of viewing (Hidden Fortress, Rashomon, and this) I'd have to say that while Rashomon is still my favorite, I nevertheless had a blast during this one. The story has become quite influential to filmmakers from the likes of John Sturges (The Magnificent Seven) to John Lasseter (A Bug's Life): a small village has been terrorized by bandits for far too long, amid times of civil war in the nation, and so on the advice of Grand-Dad, they decide to hire four - which soon becomes seven - samurai for the job. There's no money, just food and honor, even though the village isn't exactly pleased to have samurai back in their village. Each character is drawn and executed compellingly, though for my money Toshiro Mifune proves why he became one of Japan's most notorious film actors. His work as the brave, bold outcast of the seven is awe-inspiring practically all the way through, like the hero of a western that anyone can root for since he's a true rebel at heart within a group of men with a task at hand.
Kurosawa directs his tale and main and supporting players like a grand composer, orchestrating a vivid story and extracting from great actors like Takashi Shimura (the old, wise Samurai), Ko Kimura (the disciple Samurai), Daisuke Kato (Schichiroji), and Mifune (Kikuchiyo, which isn't his real name) just the right touches of humanity, humor, tragedy, romance, and intensity. The overall intensity, by the way, isn't over-estimated; its long length (almost 3 1/2 hours) isn't distracting in the slightest since Kurosawa's editing and photography (the later helmed by Asakazu Nakai) are extraordinary. Not to compare the two films, but one thing I saw in common with Seven Samurai and a Lord of the Rings film is that, if anything else, it definitely isn't a boring experience. Along with a score by Fumio Hayasaka that gives the film just a bit more of a pulse, and a showdown that is relentless with excitement, this is one of the must-see action films for film buffs, or anyone with an serious interest in having fun with an epic.