"...I'll do something I rarely do in these oft-rambling reviews I write for the site and award Twilight Samurai a perfect score."
Twilight Samurai (2002)
Director: Yoji Yamada
Writer: Shuuhei Fujisawa (novels Tasogare Seibei, Chikkou Shiatsu and Iwaibito Sukehachi), Yoji Yamada (screenplay), Yoshitaka Asama
Producer: Shigehiro Nakagawa, Hiroshi Fukazawa, Ichiro Yamamoto
Cast: Hiroyuki Sanada, Rie Miyazawa, Min Tanaka, Nenji Kobayashi, Ren Osugi, Mitsuru Fukikoshi, Keiko Kishi, Tetsuro Tanba (Tetsura Tamba)
Running Time: 129 min.
Plot: See review below.
Availability: This title is available at HKflix.com
ALEXANDER'S REVIEW: This isn't your traditional samurai action flick. There's only a couple of fight scenes, and while both are well-filmed and suspenseful, they're short and with only a fraction of blood you would expect from a movie with the word "samurai" in the title. But the lack of action in Twilight Samurai doesn't make it any less engaging, suspenseful or mesmerizing. Rather, its brilliance lies in it's superb acting, pacing, cinematography and story.
Hiroyaki Sanada won the Japanese equivalent of the Oscar for Best Actor for his portrayal of the dutiful and doting Seibei Iguchi. It was well-deserved. Iguchi's unkempt hair and tattered clothes, hooked nose and weak chin belie his mastery of the short sword and his steadfast protection of his small and relatively ramshackle home. Sanada is mesmerizing in this role. He evinces a myriad of emotions and traits, from humility and ferocity to guile and hopeless romantic.
We often see the pain and anguish and compassion of the characters in film, but rarely is a performance so powerful as to transcend that space between us and the screen of our television and actually allow us to feel these emotions. Sanada's performance is virtuosic, his brilliance evident when we can feel his embarrassment at being reprimanded by his lord; when we feel his joy when reuniting with a childhood friend; when we feel his adoration of his two daughters; when we feel his frustration at his mother's senility. It's really one of the most complete and moving performances I've ever seen in a film.
But Sanada isn't the only reason why I love Twilight Samurai. While the film's running time is daunting at 129 minutes, and the prospect of little action might suggest stretches of boredom for the viewer, the film moves at a brisk pace and keeps us engaged with suspense surrounding the many dilemmas Iguchi faces. I found myself caring--a lot--about the outcome of the handful of duels, the reappearance of Tomoe (played beautifully by Rie Miyazawa), the fate of Iguchi's daughters, and Iguchi's constant struggle to balance his duty to his master and his duty to his broken family.
I really could ramble on and on about what I liked about Twilight Samurai; about how much I enjoyed Sanada's performance and how enthralled I was by the plot. Instead, I'll do something I rarely do in these oft-rambling reviews I write for the site and award Twilight Samurai a perfect score.
ALEXANDER'S RATING: 10/10