15 September 2013 | MartinHafer
Well done but probably rather difficult for Western audiences--and also a bit talky.
Because I am a retired history teacher and lover of Japanese films, the plot to "Samurai Spy" is something I can understand--though it wasn't easy. However, most folks who are not Japanese will really struggle understanding the context--even with the tiny prologue to explain this. To make things a bit easier to understand, I'll summarize the context where the film begins: Before the Tokugawa Era, Japan was fragmented into many different kingdoms run by many different clans. In the late 1500s, several leaders of the Tokugawa clan schemed to gain power by forging alliances and fighting battles against the various other clans in Japan. Eventually, Ieyasu defeated the final holdout clans in 1600 at the Battle of Sekigahara and he became the first Shogun--the de facto leader of Japan (despite there still being an Emperor). However, a few years later, the Sanada clan tried, in a last gasp effort, to defy the power of the Tokugawa clan and was crushed in a final epic battle. Just following this battle is when this film begins.
Sasuke and Noriji both meet and are soon set upon by agents of the Tokugawa who try to kill Noriji. You assume Sasuke is working with the Sanada clan because he helps Noriji--though who is working with whom is difficult to determine--especially since Noriji is a man who will work for whoever pays him most. A bit later, Noriji is killed--presumably by the guy in white (whose headdress looks a bit like bunny ears). And, for the rest of the film, one guy after another tries to kill Sasuke--and folks around him start dropping like flies. Who is working for whom and what is all this about? See the film and find out for yourself.
I'll be honest. This was a very well made film and the action sequences, when they occurred, were very nicely done. However, the film is also VERY, VERY talky. Not a bad film but one that isn't as memorable as many of the other films I've seen about this time period.