The Magnificent Seven
Directed by Antoine Fuqua.
Screenplay by John Lee Hancock and Shinobu Hashimoto.
Starring Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D’Onofrio, Lee Byung-Hun, Martin Sensmeier, Haley Bennett, Peter Sarsgaard.
The tranquillity of the inhabitants of Rose Creek is shattered by Bartholomew Bogue, a ruthless industrialist. The town is subjugated to his will and the men are forced away from their fields. A revolt culminates in the spilling of innocent blood and Emma Cullen, a courageous young woman whose husband was murdered by Bogue, decides to seek justice.
She hires Sam Chisolm, who takes on the war against the bad guys not just for money but also for a mysterious personal reason. Chisolm seeks and finds other gunslingers. The seven men arrive at Rose Creek and take on Bogue and his men. In a long and gruelling battle supported by the inhabitants of the town, Rose Creek is freed, but everyone (including the Magnificent Seven) pays a steep price.
In 1954 there was Seven Samurai by the Japanese directorAkira Kurosawa. In 1960 The Magnificent Seven followed, a “mature” Western in which John Sturges set Kurasawa’s epic in the Wild West. Sixty years later Antoine Fuqua has again brought this classic Western back to the big screen with contemporary dialogue and themes.
The result is enjoyable, although only for adults because of an abundance of explicit and violent murders.
In this era of superheroes, comic books, fantasy sagas and sci-fi blockbusters, Fuqua revives the flavour of classic cinema with its stark duality between good and evil. There are no greys, no loose ends. Only a long battle and very high stakes. Their pasts may be different and painful but the Good Guys are united in a single goal.
The emphasis on ethnic diversity is very contemporary. Sam Chisolm, the leader of the Seven, is black; Farraday is Irish; Billy Rocks is Asian; Vasquez is Mexican; and Red Harvest is a Comanche. Goodnight Robicheaux is a Confederate sniper “violated” by the war and no longer able to pull the trigger; Jack is a Mountain Man possessed by mysticism.
They are all mercenaries willing to die for a just cause. For some of them this battle is the last link in the chain of destiny. For some it’s revenge; for others it’s justice. For others, without a home and loved ones, there’s no other place to go.
What matters is that these outsiders restore the proper order of things and give legitimacy to the rituals of this farming community: unarmed men who cultivate their land; women and children waiting at home for their husbands and fathers; a God in the church down the street.
There is an unwritten code of honour. This occurs both on a narrative level and on a structural and language level. Each of the gunslingers is carefully characterised, with distinctive gestures, rituals, and language. The dialogue is crisp and clear. All of this is classic filmmaking, which speaks the noble language of the Western.
Maria Luisa Bellucci is Programming and Acquisition Manager for the Italian channels Lei and Dove.
The Japanese original is one of the best films ever made.