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13 Assassins

13 Assassins

By Patrick Samuel • November 8th, 2011
Static Mass Rating: 3/5
Artificial Eye

Release date: September 5th 2011
Certificate (UK): 15
Running time: 125 minutes

Country of origin: Japan
Original language: Japanese with English subtitles

Director: Takashi Miike
Writer: Daisuke Tengan

Cast: Gorô Inagaki, Koji Yakusho, Takayuki Yamada, Yusuke Iseya, Masachika Ichimura, Mikijiro Hira, Hiroki Matsukata, Ikki Sawamura, Arata

The world of the samurai warrior is one characterised by rectitude, courage, respect, benevolence, honesty, honour and loyalty. These legendary warriors were first referenced in literature in the 10th century in Kokin Wakash?, a collection of poems compiled at Imperial request.

In the centuries that followed since then we’ve marvelled at their skill and way of life as outlined in the philosophy of the Bushid?, an unspoken, unwritten and wholly unique code of conduct.

13 Assassins

Films like 47 Ronin (1941), The Seven Samurai (1957), Throne of Blood (1957), Harakiri (1962), Samurai Assassin (1962), Samurai Rebellion (1967) and Ran (1985) have added much value to the cinema of the samurai and thus have created a sub-genre onto itself.

As a remake of Eiichi Kudo’s 1963 film, also called 13 Assassins, Takashi Miike puts forward his own contribution with a film that’s as beautiful as it is painful and violent.

Set in Japan in the mid-19th century, the story takes us to a time and place that fraught with injustice.

The Shogun’s sadistic, psychopathic younger brother, Lord Naritsugu (Gorô Inagaki) rapes, murders and mutilates without prejudice. His acts are beyond understanding or forgiveness and very early on we see what he’s left a servant girl naked, mute and a quadruple amputee just for the perverse thrill of it.

13 Assassins

A samurai warrior, Shinzaemon Shimada (Kôji Yakusho) begins to assemble a group of fellow warriors to deal with Naritsugu’s bloody wrath before he destroys the Shogunate. He gathers 11 and after weeks of training and preparation they set off on their journey. Along the way, they end up lost and this is where they meet Kiga Koyata (Yûsuke Iseya), a mysterious and off-beat character who becomes number 13 and their guide, showing them the way.

Miike then leads us into a 45 minute battle sequence as the 13 assassins launch their attack on Naritsugu and his army of warriors. It’s a noble attempt to bring peace back to the region despite knowing it’s a suicide mission, but being samurai, this is exactly what they’ve trained for.

13 Assassins

As a remake, visually it’s very faithful to Kudo’s original which at the time of release was compared to Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai and then criticised for those similarities.

A lot of Miike’s angles and mise en scène recall Kudo’s version but there are notable differences as well. While Kudo remained almost aloof in his visual style, choosing to give the feeling of looking down on his characters, Miike brings us closer to them, adding more drama to what’s happening on screen. He wants us to see and feel what’s happening. The impact is heightened both on a visual and emotional level.

Yet for those changes in the narrative his script overexploits what we can already see on screen, simplifying and trivialising what should be unspoken and unwritten as with the Bushid?.

Patrick Samuel

Patrick Samuel

The founder of Static Mass Emporium and one of its Editors in Chief is an emerging artist with a philosophy degree, working primarily with pastels and graphite pencils, but he also enjoys experimenting with water colours, acrylics, glass and oil paints.

Being on the autistic spectrum with Asperger’s Syndrome, he is stimulated by bold, contrasting colours, intricate details, multiple textures, and varying shades of light and dark. Patrick's work extends to sound and video, and when not drawing or painting, he can be found working on projects he shares online with his followers.

Patrick returned to drawing and painting after a prolonged break in December 2016 as part of his daily art therapy, and is now making the transition to being a full-time artist. As a spokesperson for autism awareness, he also gives talks and presentations on the benefits of creative therapy.

Static Mass is where he lives his passion for film and writing about it. A fan of film classics, documentaries and science fiction, Patrick prefers films with an impeccable way of storytelling that reflect on the human condition.

Patrick Samuel ¦ Asperger Artist

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