Takashi Miike’s 13 Assassins
David Liu | 9 December 2011
Call it a requiem for the Age of the Samurai — Takashi Miike’s 13 Assassins opens with a disgraced man committing a public act of seppuku and ends with a lone samurai walking off-screen in the aftermath of a violent showdown, navigating his way through an irreversible swath of ruin.
Set in the turbulent years of 1840s Japan, the film begins by dividing its time between two narratives. We witness firsthand the repulsive sadism of Lord Naritsugu (Goro Inagaki) and his ruthless determination to hold onto power in the waning years of the shogunate government, and then follow veteran samurai Shinzaemon (Koji Yakusho) as he assembles a team of courageous men on a mission to assassinate Naritsugu.
The parties converge in the form of a bravura battle sequence sustained over the film’s final 45 minutes, in which the samurai — relentless guardians of a dying way of life — clash in breathtaking fashion with Naritsugu’s corrupt legions. In its exquisite recreation of a lost world, Miike’s strongest picture to date attains poignant, masterful dimensions.