25 December 2009 | MartinHafer
Okay....but mostly for people that enjoy medieval Japanese war epics.
It should be noted that this DVD was about 20 minutes shorter than the time listed on IMDb. I assume that a bit of it was trimmed for the American and Canadian DVD release. While this is regrettable, the DVD producers fortunately decided not to dub the film but presented it with subtitles--something far preferable to most cinemaniacs.
As for the film, it's a historical drama about Shingen Takeda's attempt to conquer medieval Japan. In particular, it focuses on his right hand man, Kansuke Yamamoto (Toshirô Mifune), who doggedly pushed his master (Takeda) to be very cunning and amoral in his pursuit of power. Yamamoto was a great strategist and he and Takeda were of one mind during most of the film. Only later in the film does Takeda try his own plan.
Along the way, a headstrong princess is captured. While Yamamoto was always loyal, it seemed as if unresolved sexual tension existed between him and the princess. Yamamoto's fanatical loyalty to her and her son were evidence of his attraction to her--particularly when he could have sided with Takeda's wife.
While there is some of the film concerns life behind the scenes, much of it had to do with one battle after another as well as showing details of the battle plans in the later battles. All this makes the film great for military strategists and people who love war films, but it also makes the film a bit stale--taking away some of the heart of the film. Frankly, after a while I found myself really respecting the film for its attention to detail but also feeling disconnected as a result of all the battles. I also think that if you are very, very well-versed with medieval Japanese history this all might be a bit more interesting. I have more knowledge than 99% of the Americans that might watch this film since I have been a history teacher, but some of the subtleties of the film still eluded me. Because of this, it's important to watch the included "program notes" BEFORE you see the film. I did, however, like the arrow in the eye near the end.
Overall, a very well made but standard war picture. If you love war films (and I don't), you'll enjoy this one. If not, then it might be a bit of a chore to watch--especially since it's about three hours long.