Animeigo has unleashed the final entry in Eiichi Kudo’s Samurai Rebellion Trilogy, with their release of 11 Samurai and maintains the level of excellence found in the previous entries. Nariatsu, the son of the former Shogun, and on the road to be the new Shogun himself, shoots an arrow into the eye of a lord and accidentally kills him. Instead of the blame falling onto Nariatsu himself, the lord and his entire fief is blamed and threatened, by the removal of their monthly compensation from the government. The leaders of the fief decide to hatch a plan to stop the evil Nariatsu from becoming the Shogun and making him pay for the crimes he’s inflicted upon the people. Full of the same gusto that made the previous films wonderful, 11 Samurai manages to bring something else to the table, as well present a fantastic entry into the chambara genre and solidify Kudo as an important filmmaker within Japanese cinema.
The major element that separates 11 Samurai from the previous entries of 13 Assassins and The Great Killing is the infusion of melodrama within the story. Certain aspects of the plot concerning Hayato (Isao Natsuyagi) and his wife Orie (Junko Miyazono), concerning faithfulness within their marriage and other elements add a much different take, that is both rewarding and well executed. This is also reinforced through Composer Akira Ifukube’s score at the pivotal points in the story, that truly enforce the push and pull of emotions. There’s a point in which the group is ready for an attack upon their prey, in which they are forced by their superior’s to not go through with the plan. This scene, as well as a few others, show the infusion of Ifukube’s score helps to reinforce the feelings of all of the characters and overall tone of the film. Cinematographer Sadaji Yoshida focuses on the same elements that worked in the previous films of the trilogy, that places an emphasis on long takes and minimal cuts, in order for the audience to see the chaos within the battlefield. While all of the other cinematographer’s on the previous films, Yoshida’s works seems to be an infusion of the classical sense that Jubei Suzuki showcased in 13 Assassins and the frenzy of Osamu Furuya’s work on The Great Killing. The end result is a stunning and wonderfully showcased final battle sequence, that is both thrilling and unforgettable.
After having the honor in seeing the entire Samurai Rebellion Trilogy, each of them present something different to the greater whole of the trilogy, in terms of the style of storytelling and approach but maintain the consistency of the major issue of social injustice. Much like Masaki Kobayashi, with his phenomenal works Harakiri and Samurai Rebellion, Kudo’s use of the chambara film to showcase issues of social upheaval in the 1960’s are works that need to be seen and present a wonderful use of style, to go along with some heavy substance. If 13 Assassins and The Great Killing weren’t proof enough of the greatness of that is Eiichi Kudo and Animeigo’s tradition of bringing over some great Japanese cinema, do yourself a favor and check out 11 Samurai and see if you’re not convinced. Highly Recommended!