Mixing truth and fiction has never been so beautiful.
The new film 47 Ronin does something tricky, it takes a true story from Japanese history and adds magic, monsters and a white guy. And to my shock and amazement, it not only pulls it off, but does so in a completely interesting and entertaining way.
Keanu Reeves plays Kai, adopted son of the Lord Daimyo (Min Tanaka). He is in love with the Daimyo’s daughter (Kō Shibasakiand) and was raised by magical monks who taught him to kill in a very interesting way when he was a child. After the Daimyo is forced to commit seppuku (ritual suicide), due to a betrayal by the rival Lord of the neighboring land, Kai and the Lord’s 46 samurai (now called Ronin) seek revenge on the rival Lord.
This story is simple and Japan’s national legend, the basis of countless samurai films throughout the ages. To stop this from being just another remake, the actual story being filmed many times before, the filmmakers have added a twist to this version. The rival Lord has himself a witch (Rinko Kikuchi from Pacific Rim) capable of shape-shifting into any number of things including foxes, flying cloth and full blown dragons, not to mention casting spells and other magical powers. The world is also populated with any number of strange creatures from large fantastical bull-like wildlife to eight foot tall monsters forced into mortal combat for the sake of gambling. And did I mention the nine foot iron samurai? These are all welcomed new obstacles for our heroes in a story that would otherwise seem stale having been told so often before.
Keanu does a fine job for the same reason that all his good performances are good, he rarely speaks and when he does it’s short and to the point. The standout performance of the film to me is that of Hiroyuki Sanada as Oishi, leader of the samurai. You will recognize him as he played the son in this summers The Wolverine and he was on Lost. His performance is subdued and quiet but you can sense his anger just under the surface. Rinko Kikuchi also shines as the nut job witch, playing just over the top enough to not go to far. Check her out in her big break performance in this years best film, Pacific Rim.
And to say the film is beautiful is an understatement. Every shot is a painting. Vibrant and varied colors are present throughout the entire film, each character or sub group having their very own color palette. The witch always in green, the creepy monks in yellow, the samurai in red, the bad samurai in black, and so on. The special effects are also superb being beautifully blended with the natural environments.
I was completely drawn into the world of this film. The characters are very well realized, the story compelling and the action spectacular. I highly recommend it.
What films did you see over the holiday?
Image Credit, Image courtesy of Universal Pictures
About The Author
Maximilian Tieman is a lifelong Torrington resident and has been a film buff since his mother brought him to the movies as a child. He is a graphic designer and print specialist and manages the Franklin Print Shoppe in downtown Torrington.
Special thanks to Torrington's Digiplex Destinations.