Antoine Fuqua’s The Magnificent Seven tells classic western in new way (review)

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It’s a classic tale, the one this film is based on. The tale that goes as far back as Ancient Greece, with the mighty 300 Spartans, to our own American history with the battle of the Alamo. Even the Bible chronicles such a tale, with David and Goliath. It is the tale of the few against the many. The stouthearted against the mighty. The unassuming against the powerhouse. It is the tale of the perseverance of mankind, pushing past their own limits for the survival of what is right. Yes, this tale has been told many times in the course of man’s history, but in each telling, what separates the over-told from the uniquely told is the storyteller. And with The Magnificent Seven, we get one heck of a storyteller with Antoine Fuqua.

Looking to mine for gold, greedy industrialist Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard), seizes control of the Old West town of Rose Creek. With their lives in jeopardy, Emma Cullen (Haley Bennett) and other desperate residents turn to bounty hunter Sam Chisolm (Denzel Washington) for help. Chisolm recruits an eclectic group of gunslingers to take on Bogue and his ruthless henchmen. With a deadly showdown on the horizon, the seven mercenaries soon find themselves fighting for more than just money once the bullets start to fly.

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The film, a remake of the 1960 classic of the same name, which was also an American Western interpretation of Akira Kurosawa’s 1954 Shichinin no samurai (Seven Samurai), has a lot to live up to, in terms of cultural and cinematic impact. Kurosawa was a mastermind behind the camera, creating a delicate yet balanced film that still wows audiences worldwide today, and John Sturges, the director of the 1960’s remake, dreamed up an incredible Western-inspired film that changed the make-up of how ensemble films were made. Fuqua’s The Magnificent Seven met the challenge head on, as he created a work that encapsulates the very passion of classic Western films, while still paying homage to its predecessor, Seven Samurai.

First off, the casting was genius. Having someone like Denzel Washington portray the iconic leader of the band, following in the footsteps of Yul Brynner’s stoic Chris Adams, or Takashi Shimura’s pensive Kambei Shimada, had me a bit worried. Not that Denzel is a bad actor, no. But in the fact that Denzel tends to get to a point where his character becomes slightly bombastic in his emotions, which later translate to his excitable, yet still powerful, scenes that he’s known for. In the film, however, Denzel hits all the right chords, and nails the character expertly. His stoic yet considerate character never allows his emotions to run full throttle, and creates a role that is one not seen by many in his career. His ability to translate 95% of his emotion through his eyes (and you know Denzel got them eyes that just make you melt) in the film are outstanding, and make for the type of character fitting for the film.

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Another actor that I wasn’t sure of in the casting was Chris Pratt. Portraying the similar role first played by Steve McQueen, my fear was that with Pratt’s antics and humor, he couldn’t play second seat to Denzel in the supporting role, but I was wrong again. Pratt does a fantastic job at the side of Denzel, and creates magic in his own scenes, but never outshining Denzel. Pratt has some incredible scenes, but some of his best work were the interactions of the hard character of Denzel. Alongside Pratt, the rest of the cast work seamlessly beside each other, with Ethan Hawke, Haley Bennett, and Vincent D’Nofrio also creating incredible roles in the film.

Another great takeaway from the film was the cinematography. Each scene was pieced masterfully together, giving moviegoers an incredible vision of the western frontier. Fuqua definitely has an eye for creating scenes that are so well put together, and with the added touch by Cinematographer Mauro Fiore, whose attention to detail and scene composition have been paired with Antoine Fuqua’s direction ever since 2001’s Training Day. The scenes are well constructed and composed, and are remarkable to see, all by themselves.

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The Magnificent Seven, of course, does stray away, somewhat, from the core mindset of what most westerns evolved from, and wanders into the place of fantasy and action. I say somewhat because although it does get a bit predictable in the death sequences, and every bullet from the good guys seems to find the lethal target with every bad guy, it still has a bit of naturality and distinctiveness in its storytelling. The film does end up killing some heroes that you don’t expect to die, and keeps the audience at the edge of their seats engaged, both physically and emotionally. The Magnificent Seven is a film about the coming together of some of the most unlikely of sorts, bound by the common bond to do one thing: eradicate evil, and bring justice to those incapable of doing it on their own. The Magnificent Seven tells that same tale, while bringing homage not only to the film it was inspired by, but to every tale bore from history or literature, telling the journey of the small that overcame the mountain.

Rating: 3.5/5 Atoms

NR 3_5 Atoms - B-

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Eddie Villanueva Jr.
Eddie Villanueva Jr. 310 posts

A movie connoisseur of only the finest films, and an Encyclopod of geek and nerd knowledge. And if you know what an Encyclopod is, you're cool too!