I love samurai stories, movies, and books. I count ran as one of my all
time favorite films, and shogun is my favorite book. With this in mind
I was probably always going to like 13 assassins but I was surprised by
how much I really enjoyed it.
The story follows samurai Shinzaemon Shimada as he is tasked by the minister for
justice to remove the current shoguns heir before he can take his place
on the shoguns council and lead the country to a new age of chaos. He
begins putting together a group of able samurai who are willing to sell
their lives for the good of the people. Before they can put their plan
into action they must first prepare, and come to terms with the leaders
bodyguards ability as he is an old friend of Shinzaemon.
There was a lot I really liked about this film but it's strongest part
is the work of the director, Takashi Miike. He has crafted a superb film
from beginning to end. The cast he has assembled is superb at the roles
they are assigned, and his choice of location really adds to the films
look. The final action sequences are extremely entertaining and brutal
when required, but without seeming to be over the top. Miike also does
very well with the more subtle dramatic moments as well as give the
viewer some disturbing images, the poor girl has stuck in my mind and is
freaking me out.
The cast is also superb and work brilliantly together. While they are
all very good the two that stood out were Kôji Yakusho
as Shinzaemon and Gorô Inagaki
the evil Lord Naritsugu Matsudaira. Yakusho is suitably impressive as the master
samurai and swordsman. He is charming, charismatic, and likeable in the
lead role and proves to be a solid lead for the film. Every hero needs a
good villain and Inagaki is a brilliant bad guy. He is truly unlikeable
and repulsive with his actions. He carries out his role superbly and is a
memorable bad guy.
The final point I have to make is that the action in the film is really
good, but the first hour setting up the team as well as the political
motivations are just as good. The action is fast, bloody and brutal,
with the political plotting and the cat and mouse tension is just the
In conclusion I rate this as one of the best films I have seen this year
and one of the best samurai films I have seen in a while. There is only
one thing I would like to change and that is it would have been nice
for there to have been some samurai armour in it. This is easy to
recommend and if you like samurai films it is essential.