Concise Review: The Magnificent Seven (1960)


The Magnificent Seven in many ways is the most charming Western to come out of the Hollywood Studio system. Its 125-minute running length is filled to the brim with amusing gestures, comradery, mythical awe and a simultaneous childlike excitement and rawness to its action sequences. Despite possessing these qualities, the film does not descend into becoming a mere lark and spectacle. Instead, the picture truly comes alive in its quiet and contemplative moments where members of the titular seven bandit group reflect on their moral plight.

Many of these sequences feature Chris Adams who is played with captivating subtly by Yul Brynner. Brynner single handily provides the film with its moral centre, emphasising sensitivity and duty-bound nature with his precise facial expressions. At the same time, Brynner effortlessly portrays the sense of loss that has befallen his brothers in his arms. The most striking single moment that articulates this comes at the end of the picture when he states in a matter of fact manner that “The farmers won, we lost, we always lose.” The line is an acknowledgement of the futility of his line of work and can be interpreted as the start of the Western genre becoming self-reflexive about its characters and inherent nature.

Finally, director John Sturges matches the intimacy of the film with a commendable grandeur. Part of this comes from the movie being shot in Panavision, which allows for these sweeping scenic shots that are breathtaking to behold. Moreover, the downtrodden central village that requires assistance from the titular group was built on location. The result is a creation that feels authentic and intrinsically possesses character. From its central bell tower to its straw and robust stone archways, the village in the Magnificent Seven is a wonder onto itself that demands survival for its beauty and depiction of the simpler life.

About Sartaj Govind Singh

Notes from a distant observer: “Sartaj is a very eccentric fellow with a penchant for hats. He likes watching films and writes about them in great analytical detail. He has an MA degree in Philosophy and has been known to wear Mickey Mouse ears on his birthday.”
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