Remaking the 1960 John Sturges film starring Yul Brynner and Steve Mc Queen which was, in turn, modeled after Kurosawa's 1954 Seven Samurai was taking on a giant in film history. And this version of The Magnificent Seven not only succeeds, but triumphs. Of course Denzel Washington is simply terrific, but it is the cinematography that steals the show. Viewing this film is like opening a wonderful picture book very slowly one page at a time and savoring the compositions, the lighting, the design of each shot. This invitation from cinematographer Mora Fiore to bring you into the picture and its action is Oscar worthy. The journey is reminiscent of a Turner or Corot who might have painted the ole west and has that kind of visceral appeal. Naturally credit is also due to the skill of director Anthony Fuqua (Training Day.) The beauty of this film is a character on to itself. Every so often the home team music of Elmer Bernstein from the original film is played, but only very subtly.
Most recall the plot of the original Magnificent Seven. Seven gunfighters are hired to protect a village from marauding bandits and their diabolical leader in this version played with great panache by Peter Sarsgaard. Richard Wenk and Nic Pizzolatto (True Detective) wrote the screenplay based on Kurosawai's Seven Samurai. The dialogue is peppered with great wit.
But it is Denzel Washington's film. Chris Pratt makes a very big entrance and for a moment you think, "Well, maybe this is his film," but then slowly Washington's character, Chisolm, develops and takes over the action to rescue the town and its frightened folk. When Chisolm speaks, his words come through his soul and heart and are the catalyst for his expression to speak the dialogue and meaning of the words. He is not mannered. No false,phony, contrived moves. There is purity to Washington's acting that comes from his soul and spirit.
Also Chris Pratt as Josh Faraday is excellent. He has a wonderful presence and yet his handsome face which would stop you in your tracks does not negate his talent for comedy. He is an actor who knows how to take his moments and works beautifully with the lens.
A real surprise and treat is Vincent D'Onofrio as Jack Horne. While I remember his handsome looks and acting from Law and Order though he has an enormous body of other work, here he plays a character from the old west and with his weight gain he looks like a gun slinging Santa. My, he is good. His acting gallops from his entrance to the finale with a big bang.
Ethan Hawke as Goodnight Robicheaux has a compassionate and often witty presence. His acting is subtle and valued as he plays a coward who becomes a hero. Bung-Hun Lee, Manual Garcia Rulfo and Martin Sensmeier round out The Magnificent Seven. Haley Bennett as Emma Cullen is the gun slinging woman and plays her femininity just right. She is assertive and takes her moments when necessary, but has a fire much appreciated in a predominantly male cast. She holds her own not only with a gun, but with her acting.
Walter Mirisch, age 94, who produced the original, is credited as one of The Magnificent Seven producers-- of which there were seven-- along with Roger Birnbaum and director Anthony Fuqua. They have much to be proud of. See The Magnificent Seven and "Make your day!" without Clint Eastwood.