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Released in 1960
Directed by John Sturges
TL;DR – A surprisingly contemporary Western epic that hits every note perfectly for the genre, and then some. This is the OG western film, and if it’s your first foray in to the genre then this is where you need to start. 10/10
***REVIEW MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS***
There were many times during this film that I thought “oh yeah, I’ve seen this shot/scene a million times before” and then I remembered what I was watching.
“The Magnificent 7” is essentially the O.G. that every western after it was inspired by, the one that set up the stereotypical shots of the mysterious horsemen riding into the dusty town, the grand epic scenery, the over the top gun fights. Everything you see in this film is now used as often in filmmaking as it is parodied by it.
It was inspired by Akira Kurosawa’s “Seven Samurai” and the plot is the same – a small farming town that is being robbed by a group of bandits hires 7 gunmen to protect their agriculture. It’s also similar to it’s Japanese counter-part in terms of how it was cast, with big stars of the day headlining such as Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson and more.
It’s basically “The Expendables” of the 1960’s in a western.
A lot of us may recall western films as slow moving, meandering films with lots of dialogue and the occasional skirmish here and there. “Magnificent 7” certainly is no different, but the plot, characters and action are really well done. The leader of the marauding bandits, Wallach is an interesting character, he appears to have a Napoleon complex of sorts, and he is always talking about the future and even predicts an Atheist nation. The gun fighters are all the type of characters you would expect to see in a movie that was released in the last 10 years, so it was certainly ahead of it’s time.
You’ve got the tough one, the thinker, the cocky guy, the gentleman, the old-timer, the man searching for redemption and a guy who has an out of place weapon, the weapon being a switchblade.
They even interact amongst each other in ways very similar to the characters in say, “The Avengers” films, with witty dialogue, inside jokes and pretty great comedic timing when they need it. All of this makes for a thoroughly enjoyable experience and it makes the time between the gun fights fly right by, and you’re actually interested in what’s happening.
I love how they talk about their lives as gun fighters, and while this may be a common thing in westerns, for some reason I really felt it when they talk about settling down and raising some cattle.
The gunmen find that they are grossly outnumbered by the bandits, so they decide to train the villagers how to shoot guns and fight. They build a wall around the town, a process that we actually get to see a lot of. I don’t think we see characters doing hard labor like that these days.
And speaking of things you see, the editing in this film is phenomenal. Even today I see a lot of continuity errors in modern films which are typically covered up with quick cuts or a pan/zoom to something else in the frame. The continuity in “The Magnificent 7” is absolute. The swelling, epic score is breathtaking and the action is intense.
If I have to nit-pick(and I do), I would say the acting leaves a bit to be desired. I found Steve McQueen’s character to be the least memorable in fact, being overshadowed by Yul Brynner and Charles Bronson both in terms of acting chops and character. The villagers are all pretty bland as far as performances go, but it wasn’t bad enough to take me out of the film.
This is a classic film that holds up extremely well in an age of quick-cutting explosions and shoot outs, shaky cameras over-the-top action heroes. If you have any interest in western films and genres that it affected, you need to watch “The Magnificent 7.”