Thursday, December 12, 2013

Film Review: 13 Assassins (2009)

13 Assassins (Review)
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: Yes

"...13 Assassins is a masterpiece. "

In the 1840s in Japan, Lord Naritsugu of Akashi is the sadistic stepbrother of the current Shogun. The Shogun's Justice realizes as the arrogant Lord Naritsugu ascends to higher political power, the situation will become worse. So, he secretly hires Shimada Shinzaemon (Kōji Yakusho), a trusted samurai who served under the former shogun, to assassinate Lord Naritsugu...

13 Assassins continues as Shinzaemon gathers an elite set of samurai to assist him in his task. Along with his fellow samurai, he'll also plan their attack. This includes gambling on what his enemy's next move will be, fortifying a small town for their advantage, and executing their attack. The recruitment and the planning are very detailed and immersive, and it leads to a satisfying third act. And, by the third act, we see 12 samurai and a hunter become assassins. The final act of the film, or final 40 minutes or so, is a exhilarating, action-packed thrill ride -- worth the price admission on its own.

I thoroughly enjoyed the story in 13 Assassins -- a remake of a film I have yet to see. The first two acts of the film play like a very effective slow-burn. The antagonist's introduction is chilling and sets the mood for the film. Every scene with the antagonist, in fact, is vicious and infuriating -- this is how you make a villain. The tension is in the atmosphere and it's heavy. I really liked the planning phase, and it becomes more apparent and interesting when their plan is executed during the final act. Although there are some small action scenes during the first two acts, a bulk of the action occurs during the last 45 minutes. The samurai action is intense and even violent, and it feels authentic which adds to its impact.

The entire cast is fantastic in their roles, even though some have less screen time than others. Kōji Yakusho is a fantastic lead with a wide range of emotion, especially towards the end. The music fits the setting and tone of the film, and it really elevates the suspense. The film is shot beautifully with great attention to every detail and great use color. I also really enjoyed the set and costume design. Takashi Miike's direction is fantastic, very focused and consistent.

Overall, 13 Assassins is a superb film. The story tells an epic tale with effective philosophical subtexts -- and its action makes it a film anyone can enjoy. It's simply an incredible film on so many levels. In other words, 13 Assassins is a masterpiece.

Score: 10/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and gore.

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