Direction: Antoine Fuqua; Cast: Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D’Onofrio, Byung-hun Lee, Manuel Garcia Rulfo, Martin Sensmeier, Haley Bennett, Peter Sarsgaard; Screenplay: Niz Pizzolatto, Richard Wenk Based on Seven Samurai by Akira Kurusawa; Editing: John Refoua; Producer: Roger Bimbaum, Todd Black; Music: James Horner; Genre: Action; Distributor: MGM Columbia Pictures; Location: Old West Running Time: 133 minutes;
Technical assessment: 3
Moral assessment: 2.5
CINEMA rating: V14
Magnificent Seven is a remake of John Sturges 1960 Western film and a take-off from Akria Kurusawa’s legendary Seven Samurai. In this version, Emma Cullen (Bennett) hires a mercenary named Chisholm (Washington) to defend her town from corrupt baron, Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard), who besieged and murdered a group of local miners, including Emma’s husband. Chisholm recruits six more rogue gunslingers with different skills and personalities. They befriend and train the town locals as they prepare to fight Bogue’s men. A fight between the Chisolm group and Bogue’s army ensues with heavy casualties from both side. In the end, the town is saved, the fallen gunmen buried as heroes and the surviving honored as legends.
The main strength of this film is the simple straightforward storytelling that allows it to grow in its audience. It never tries to be smart or complicated, avoids sudden twists and surprises and is comfortably familiar and predictable in a good way. These elements make the narrative timeless but then again we cannot entirely credit the creators of the 2016 Magnificent Seven because it is heavily based on Kurusawa’s film. However, this version lacks the texture and passion of its source material in terms of visual poetry, richness of themes and contrasting tension. The only contribution this version compares is the diversity of personalities in the casting. There are good solid performances and delightful lines here and there but overall it is far from being great.
Taking the film as it is, two main themes surface. One, the real honor is in coming and working together to empower the defenseless. Even with diverse goals in the beginning, the seven rogues and the entire Rose Creek community realize that the real strength is in the combined courage and integrity. Humanity invites us to take a firm stand against the threats against life. Further, when we truly open ourselves to others, we realize our shared humanity and common values. Two, the film asks us to reexamine if winning a violent battle at the price of lost lives is a real victory—more so if revenge is an objective. This is a question which begs a moral astuteness. Revenge is not the same as social justice. Vindictiveness does not bring restitution. When man can finally outgrow the “eye for an eye” principle, only then can real humanity prevail.