I must confess that it was the first time I saw any version of ‘The magnificent seven’. I haven’t seen the original , and the fact that I haven’t seen it aided greatly in my cinematic entertainment as I could not compare with the original and did not have the feeling of seeing the same thing again ; the whole movie was brand new for me.
So the setting is in the 1870s somewhere in the north part of the United States, judging from the snow I could see in distant horizons. It is the wild west and it is as wild as it gets. If the movie is to be believed, in these distant parts there is no such thing as law and order; might is right. And in this village called snow creek, the might belongs to Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard) and his men. He is pitiless; just slaughters anyone who dares stand up to him and even many who don’t. Of course, he is no rag tag bandit and looks as dapper as anyone can because he is well dressed.
In this situation, a lovely young woman (Haley Bennett as Emma Cullen) who Bogue has just made a widow decides to avenge her husband’s murder by his men. She is in search of a man who could organise some men who could bring Bogue and his tyranny to heel by coming to snow creek and chances upon Denzel Washington playing Sam Chisolm, a bounty hunter. Emma asks him to do her bidding for a sum of money and he agrees. They go about searching for other like minded men who could join and get Josh Faraday (Chris Pratt), a gambler; Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke), a sharpshooter; Jack Horne (Vincent D’Onofrio), a tracker; Billy Rocks (Byung-hun Lee), an assassin; Vasquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), a Mexican outlaw; Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier), a Comanche warrior.
The assembled men look like an odd bunch , with Chris Pratt looking the most dashingly handsome without question. All are rough men whose business is firing bullets into live men or at least firing arrows or knives. But can they inspire the people of snow creek to fight Bogue and his men? Yes, they can.
The movie does not move an inch without bullets being fired and the boom of guns firing is a constant in the film. There are loads of untrustworthy characters and the answer to their untrustworthiness is a bullet to the head. The body count just piles up like anything and so does the entertainment. It seems everyone has a gun and a plentiful supply of ammunition. Bodies slide away to dusty death as if human life is of no count.
But the grand finale outclasses even this. You can feel the fear when news comes that Bogue and his men are coming to deal with the seven men and the village folk they have organised against him. You realise how ancient towns must have felt when they knew that a barbarian army is heading to sack them; the swiftly descending terror was palpable in the theatre. One last prayer is said and candles are lit by the villagers; no one knows who is going to survive the coming dawn.
And dawn brings the advance of the terrible army of death. It looks like a dramatic cavalry charge straight from the medieval times and the village looks like a warzone under siege. The coming fight is not just a fight but a battle and the coming morning the village will be converted into a battlefield; almost like full scale war….
I had seen a Bollywood film called ‘Sholay’ (the splinters) loosely based on this film, but the scale of the fighting in this film totally eclipsed that film. Dynamite and explosives, Gatling guns-all add drama to the proceedings. Many are going to die defending the village, but the surviving ones are going to live with that precious thing called honour and the seven who help them are going to be honoured with the title ‘The magnificent seven’.
So who is going to live and who is going to die? Watch the film for that. Watch the high action of dynamite exploding and firearms booming and flames and dust erupting and bodies flying. Hear the enthralling music that fills your heart with emotion at the end. Watch a black man save white folk from destruction even as he seeks revenge for atrocities committed on his family in bygone days. Watch an unlikely band of warriors turn heroes.
Acting by anyone is not too spectacular. Denzel Washington is not impressive. But cinematography is better and direction is good enough. A black man leading ‘The magnificent seven’ soon after a black man played Django is the face of the new politically correct America.