‘Blade of the Immortal’ is the latest Takashi Miike directorial effort to reach British shores and marks his 100th directing credit (but not his 100th film as its been falsely marketed).
That’s quite an achievement for a modern day director, being a favourite of mine I was really looking forward to seeing this and it did not disappoint. This is a Samurai movie that is a lot superb.
Based on the epic Manga series (brutal graphic novels), the story follows a young girl named Rin Asano, who requests the aid of Manji, an immortal – A cursed samurai, whom has to kill 1000 evil men in order to regain his mortality. – to help her get revenge on the ‘Itto-Ryu Clan’ and it’s leader Kagehisa Anotsu. It’s a typical and cliched story but it’s executed well and is not as straightforward as first appears, containing a few interesting characters and elements that keep the viewers engaged.
The film doesn’t take itself too seriously so there’s a good sprinkling of humour and it retains some of the Manga’s fantastical elements like Manji managing to store a ludicrous amount of weapons up his sleeves. So anyone looking for a more grounded and realistic samurai film will probably be disappointed.
It wouldn’t be long running Manga series without a good dose of emotional drama, though it may not be overly impacting, it still manages to work thanks to good performances. In particular the lead actress Hana Sugisaki is fantastic and a stand-out in the film. The rest of the cast are still strong including Takuya Kimura who plays Manji, but it’s Hana who really brings her performance up a level, especially when portraying emotion.
With a hefty run time of 150 minutes and solid a steady pace, Blade Of The Immortal does not drag at all and a collection of top quality action sequences interspersed throughout. There’s also a big action climax at the end, which leads to a hefty amount of swordplay to enjoy. Greatly choreographed, bloody and gory. Filmed with the intention of recreating set-pieces and moment from it’s Manga roots to the big screen, though there are one or two jarring moments where the scene is somewhat obscured or moving too quickly to see. Maybe a definitive edition re-edit maybe on the cards down the line, providing the movie does well.
Aside from those moments the rest of the film is incredible and visually stunning. The first 10 minutes are shot in monochrome (black and white) and look gorgeous, cementing it’s heritage as a cult followed Manga epic. It’s transition to the colour certainly doesn’t decrease the quality. Set in rural Japan and makes for a wonderful environment, there’s a great use of lighting and some decent framing, that all make for a damn good looking movie.
The film is comparable to other modern samurai films like ‘Rurouni Kenshin’ & Miike’s own ’13 Assassins’ and while it does share a few similarities with them, the film doesn’t quite match up to their level or break any new ground. Despite this however there is still a lot to be enjoyed here and overall I think this is a really well crafted film, that offers a great slice of bloody, sword-slashing fun.
OVERALL: 7.8/10 – GOOD
Review Written by Eric Hart [Blazinhart].