12. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.Feel-better Rating:
A peaceful Californian valley is disrupted but the sound of an explosion and in the hamlet of Rose Creek children are hurried to safety. Villainous industrial Baron Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard) and his miners are bringing their gold to the bank. In the heat and dust of summer 1879 a group of pioneer farmers have called an urgent meeting in their small town’s church. A young couple, Emma (Haley Bennet) and Matthew Cullen, sit tensely at the back.
Under discussion is the danger to the families’ hard-won livelihood with the incursions on their land from Bogue, his thugs and his mining operation. The sherif has been bought, the preacher seeks a peaceful solution and the farmers are torn between fight and flight.
Even as Matthew calls for unity, Bogue and his men invade the church, threaten the farmers, giving them three weeks to sell their land for $20 or face the consequences. Unable to help himself Matthew speaks out and within moments he and a half a dozen men and women lie murdered and the church is in flames.
However, a hero is riding out of the desert into Amador city, some miles away. A man in black on a black horse. Sam Chisholm (Denzel Washington), a bounty hunter and law man. He is forced to display his peace-keeping prowess and clears the saloon. Chisholm is spotted my Emma and fellow farmer Teddy Q who, although distraught and grief-stricken, have travelled to Amador in search of justice and a hired gun.
They entreat Sam to take on the job of defeating Bogue. They have gathered all of the farmers’ money as payment. Chisholm’s attention is caught by the name of Bogue and the value of the fee. ‘I’ve been offered a lot for my work, but never everything.’
Chisholm with his new employers gathers a ‘merry band’ of Faraday (Chris Pratt), a gambler practiced in the art of distraction, Vasquez, an outlaw Mexican, assassin and ‘mysterious man from the Orient’ Billy Rocks, Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke) a PTSD Irish civil war veteran sniper, a mountain man (Vincent D’Onofrio) and Comanche warrior Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier).
They return to Rose Creek to train the farmers to swap their pitchforks for guns, and recruit the exhausted, emaciated miners who come with a helpful supply of industrial detonation. In the intervening days before Bogue’s return some make an exodus but those who dig in help in every way that they can, including the children.
Chisholm and his six guns create a strategy, devise dead ends, vantage points, a safe hiding place for the children, engage in battle training for the citizens army, who dig trenches and help set traps. There are barricades and blessings, preparations and prayer, a last supper as the people celebrate unity and hope even in the face of certain casualties before the dawn of the coming Battle for Rose Creek.
The Magnificent Seven is tale of courage and redemption. A last ride, a last stand, a last resort will bring a first day of freedom for the people of the land and the past that has haunted members of the Seven. The sweat, dirt and desperation of the farmers contrasts dramatically with the breath-taking scenery. Dark humour, loveable characters, a well-written script and top drawer acting make for a complete suspension of disbelief as director Antoine Fuqua transports us to the Wild West and people with whom the viewer can identify.
This is an interpretation for a modern audience who has not yet seen the Yul Brynner version or the original Japanese film of the book, The Seven Samurai. It is a little grittier, darker, and more realistic. Denzel Washington is a worthy successor to Yul Brynner bringing his own brand of charm and gravitas to the role of the man without a price for his integrity. Peter Sarsgaard is the soul of psychopathic evil. There are more races and nationalities than the first Magnificent Seven and a principal role is given to a woman, Emma, who holds her own alongside the men and does it all in a skirt.
If you were reluctant to see the remake of this treasured Western at the cinema fearing a desecration, director Antoine Fuqua’s explanation of his approach to recreating it may offer you some reassurance. He remembers watching it with his grandmother and so kept her in mind while working on the project, asking himself, ‘Would she enjoy this film?’. Also anyone who likes The Magnificent Seven will surely be inspired to see the original.
The Seven Magnificent Seven is emotionally involving from the word go. As for ‘Feel-better’, yes, there is a high body account but the violence is not graphic. Characters to whom we become attached perish, which reduces its rating, however, it is, above all, hopeful. The farmers on the verge of despair, through Emma, attract the right man at the right time who in turn finds the right people available and willing. The Rose Creek inhabitants throw themselves into the project of rescuing their town and make the most of their strengths. Men who were vilified find a place of honour. Good triumphs and the land is restored.
Solid uplifting entertainment, The Magnificent Seven is worth its purchase or pay-per-view price if only to find out who says, ’I always wanted to blow things up’, why the children are painting pinwheels and to hear Elmer Bernstein’s famous classic Western theme tune ringing out over the closing credits.
Chartreuse is a freelance writer, editor, photographer and promotional videographer. She has written a feel-better film review column for Heath & Happiness Magazine, and is the owner of Heypressto. Chartreuse’ greatest inspiration is Abraham-Hicks. Her favourite quote is ‘You can be, do or have anything you want’.