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13 Assassins

Take up your sword. 

Year: 2010 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 (Scope) 
Certificate: BBFC 15 Cert – Not suitable for under 15s 
Subtitles: It is expected that this film is fully subtitled. 
Directed by Takashi Miike 
Starring: Kôji Yakusho, Takayuki Yamada, Yûsuke Iseya  
An image from 13 Assassins

In the 1830s, the age of the samurai is ending. When Lord Matsudaira Naritsugu, younger brother to the Shogun, becomes a danger to the peace and stability of Japan, experienced samurai Shinzaemon is secretly hired to assassinate Naritsugu before further problems arise. Along with 11 other samurai and a man they rescue on the way, the 13 prepare for an all-out attack against 200, that none of them may survive.

13 Assassins is directed by legendary Japanese director Takashi Miike, who, after directing a bit of everything over the years, turns his hand to historical epics. His experience with film-making clearly shows; not only does everything look to be on a grand scale, but it’s also detailed and well thought out. The fighting between the two sides takes up a large part of the movie, so to see it done well here is satisfying. It really does feel like an epic struggle between two sides that believe in what they’re fighting for, but go about it in different ways. The film also contains a slight mystical element that seems to slightly detract from the film at first, but later seems to make sense and in fact enhance what the film already has to offer.

All of the Japanese actors turn in fine performances, which go a long way to help make the film feel more authentic. In some ways, it’s comparable to The Last Samurai; the depiction of the samurai doesn’t just look right, it feels right too. The subtitling is good; the story seems intact following the transition from Japanese to British screens.

Overall, 13 Assassins is a great film about samurai and how far they were willing to go to see the job done. Don’t let the subtitling put you off; this is a film that can be enjoyed with, or without, the translation.

Thomas Freeman

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Screenings of this film:

2011/2012 Autumn Term (35mm)