Prolific Japanese auteur Takeshi Miike has
been responsible for some of the most challenging and uncompromising
films of the past two decades, including One Missed Call (2003),
the beautiful, unsettling Audition (1999) and 2001s vicious and
controversial Ichi the Killer.
Universally lauded by critics and audiences
alike, 13 Assassins may well be his magnum opus. A sprawling
samurai epic set in the first half of the 19th century, the
film charts the end of the Shogunate period by telling the true story of
a sadistic feudal overlord and the small band of samurai charged with
the seemingly impossible task of waylaying and assassinating him.
The vicious Lord Naritsugu, who takes
advantage of his position as the former Shogun’s son and the current
Shogun’s half-brother to rape and murder at will, terrorising the
populace of his dominion safe in the knowledge that no one will ever
dare oppose him, is one of the most fearsome creatures ever brought to
the big screen - the fact he’s based on an actual historical personage
makes his crimes all the more horrifying. Miike’s stunning
cinematography and some flawless performances add an additional layer of
gravitas to the tale, and the final fight sequence in which the
eponymous samurai do battle with Naritsugu’s hordes of bodyguards must
be seen to be believed. A masterwork from one of the shining lights of
modern Japanese cinema, 13 Assassins is a peerless period piece
that neatly balances horror and heroism into one visceral and endlessly
compelling visual experience.
Audio & Video
Two surround soundtracks are on offer, a
DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and a Dolby TrueHD 5.1, and both are rather
superb, richly nuanced affairs. The film’s many violent sequences are
captured particularly potently, with every shriek, blade thrust and
splatter of blood flawlessly delineated in all its grotesque glory. The
2.35 widescreen transfer comes across as mildly grainy in places, but
this augments the period feel rather than detracting from it; is it just
me, or is it sometimes more satisfying to watch a film that actually
looks like it was shot on film? At any rate clarity is mostly excellent
and there’s little ghosting or dropout to speak of.
The principal extras are a 19-minute
Interview with Takeshi Miike and no less than 25 Deleted Scenes.
Also on offer are a Photo Gallery, and 8 Wu Xing Collection