Starring: Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson
Director: John Sturges
Running Time: 122 mins
The Magnificent Seven is an American film about a group of gunfighters who are hired by the residents of a small Mexican town in order to protect them from an oppressive bandit.
You know the story, and you know the film. As one of the ultimate westerns, The Magnificent Seven is an endlessly entertaining watch, completely with a brilliant star-studded cast, an exciting and often even surprisingly deep story, and even though it may seem a little dated at times to modern eyes, still does its job as an effortlessly charismatic western.
Let’s start off with the performances. In a trend that dominated blockbuster filmmaking during the 60s and 70s, the cast of The Magnificent Seven is a thrilling combination of some of the time’s greatest actors. Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen take the lead roles, but alongside are the likes of Charles Bronson, James Coburn, Robert Vaughn and more, and seeing them all together on screen is an absolute delight.
Of course, just throwing big names at a film isn’t good enough to make it a worthy watch, but all of the leads put in great turns here too. Yul Brynner is the undoubted stand-out of the film, standing strong as the leader of the team that defends the village, with all the charisma and cool you’d expect from a cowboy, combined with a surprising and impressive level of dramatic depth as well.
Alongside Brynner is Steve McQueen, who’s just as entertaining as always, James Coburn is ice-cool, Charles Bronson is great in a smaller role, and Horst Buchholz, a lesser-known star, puts in a great performance as the young, hot-headed member of the team, and proves one of the most entertaining presences out there.
As well as the performances, you can’t really fault the story here either. Based on the plot from Akira Kurosawa’s classic Seven Samurai, the story is a simple and action-packed one that allows for maximum entertainment over the course of its two hours. It opens with a first act that follows Brynner and McQueen recruiting for the team, and offers a series of great introductions to the lead characters, and then follows with an hour and a half or so of great action and entertainment as the men try to protect the small town from the bandits.
However, this is actually even more than a typical western blockbuster, because it still features a major dramatic theme that’s really quite interesting. While the action is definitely the centre of focus, I was fascinated by how the film looked at the men’s troubles and frustrations at the fact that they lacked stability in their lives. In contrast to Buchholz’s characters, a young man who’s excited about the prospect of being a gunman, the older, more battle-hardened men really open up about how they would in all truth prefer to take a normal civilian life over their current one, but struggle to make ends meet.
On the whole, the Magnificent Seven is a great film. I wouldn’t say it’s exceptional, because it feels like a bog-standard western, but that’s simply because it’s the ultimate western, and one of the most important ones in cementing the genre throughout the 1960s in the post-John Ford era. However, with great action, entertainment and performances throughout, it’s a really fun watch, and that’s why I’m giving it a 7.7.