Disclaimer: I am totally unfamiliar with the true story upon which this movie is based and make no claims to be an aficionado of Japanese cinema or culture. Therefore, this review is totally objective and focuses solely on the merits of the film itself. I absolutely loved this gorgeous and deeply moving tale spiked with fantasy from Feudal Japan, an intrinsically formal society steeped in tradition and protocol, where every movement had specific meaning and honor was paramount. From a purely artistic perspective, the film is visually stunning with amazing cinematography, spectacular costumes and tremendously well done fantasy elements, as well as rather clever and subtle use of light and shadow. Keanu Reeves is excellent as a stoic outcast (at no point does he say “Whoa” or “Dude”), and the rest of the ensemble cast deliver marvelous performances. The Shogun is dignified and powerful (even though he always looks as though he is sucking on lemons) and the Witch is deliciously creepy while frequently looking slightly disheveled, a great contrast to the other characters that are always scrupulously neat. Lord Kira is unbearably smug, making this quest for righteous vengeance all the more satisfying. “A man may not live under the same heaven as the murderer of his lord.” This is the story of good men and women willing to do whatever is necessary to avenge a great injustice, no matter what it costs them. Warning, for those of you who suffer from arachnophobia, there is a disturbing sequence beginning at precisely 28:14, but it isn’t very long. Thrilling and engrossing, with little sprinkles of humor, a few well-crafted scares and precise choreographed action throughout, I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. It is heartfelt, poignant, philosophical, romantic and utterly spellbinding. – BETHANY
See what I mean about him looking like he’s sucking on a lemon? Shogun Tsunayoshi (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa).
Lord Kira (Tadanobu Asano). So self-satisfied and arrogant, you just want to bash him!
Lord Asano (Min Tanaka), a good man, if not the best father.
The witch (Rinko Kikuchi) pays a little visit to Mika. Any chance she just wants some girl talk?