“The Magnificent Seven” is more than a remake – of a remake – it is a movie-going experience that resonates with the feel of current global terrorist threats that reminds us to find justice amidst the irrationality of hate.
The year is 1879 and the good townsfolk of Rose Creek are besieged by the mining mogul, Bart Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard). The only one willing to stand up to Bogue is Emma (Haley Bennet), who rides off to find a team of mercenary cowboys who will kill Bogue in a cloud of dusty vengeance.
I didn’t just spoil anything. We know this story. It’s not original, but director Antoine Fuqua melds the spirit of sacrifice and honor from the original “The Magnificent Seven” (1960) and the “Seven Samurai” (1954), into an emotionally satisfying experience.
The on-camera camaraderie among the cast is praiseworthy. Denzel Washington cannot deliver a poor performance. Initially, one may think that his role as the cool gunslinger who leads the group is one-dimensional.
In the final act, however, you see that his reserve and poise are what fuel his survival.
Chris Pratt is no Steve McQueen, but his good nature and snarky humor meld the motley bunch.
Vincent D’Onofrio parallels Washington’s captivating presence as a fur-clad hatchet thrower who hears whispers from a Higher Power in his mission. Ethan Hawke is a gritty, gravely-voiced ex-military sniper who suffers from that long-ago generation’s version of PTSD and takes no foolery from the farmers-turned-rebel-forces.
Sarsgaard is a psychotically flustered villain who snivels appropriately when bested by the 7. Sadly, newcomer Martin Sensmeier, who is an Alaskan Native American, is limited to the silent role of the warrior who launches flaming arrows.
Byung-hun Lee gets a few more lines and catches attention as a hair-pin killer but, along with Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, the potential contributions of all three actors are left in the dust. Bennet provides the only feminine prowess that is found wanting in the original films. Her character is emotionally drained and her angst is not resolved until the final act, where she doles out a plate of cold vengeance.
This remake is spectacular! Fuqua manages to dump every possible Western meme into this film – along with an impressive array of explosives! Bad guys fly through windows, guns twirl about fingers, bullets rip through buildings from a Gatling gun, and there is no CGI to ruin the authenticity.
Fuqua shot the entire movie on film – not digital – and uses old school cinematographic effects. A phenomenal scene unfolds as an army of bad guys storm across the plain on horseback to the tolling of the church bell and meet their defeat from townsfolk armed with pitchforks.
Did I mention explosions? The second act will keep you wide awake with arrows, superbly captured stunt work on horseback, and the defiant resolve of the characters.
Family Audiences: Young viewers can see themselves in the diverse cast.
Discussions can be had about the role that we all play in doing the right thing for others and sacrificing our interests for the greater good.
Unfortunately, there is no diversity among female characters.