3.5 out of 5 stars
I should confess before I begin this review that I have not seen the original 1960 film or The Seven Samurai on which both films are based on. I think it is important to note this as I can only imagine others who have will have a different experience from mine. I come to the film pretty fresh, knowing only bits of the previous films, and so have little to compare this with. Judging the film on its own merits and bearing in mind that I have never been much of a fan of the Western genre, I find it to be gripping, well paced and a perfectly fine piece of entertainment. While it is true that the director Antoine Fuqua has yet to find a Western cliche that he didn’t like, the surprisingly unsentimental take on the story follows the original so closely that it would be churlish to argue that it lacks subtlety or nuance. The direction and the performances (Denzel Washington and Chris Pratt both show star power and presence but I have a soft spot for Vincent D’Onofrio’s character who, for me, stole every scene he’s in) were so on point, the photography and set pieces so well composed, cinematic and effective that you can’t help but be swept away by its emotional and visceral pull. I am probably not the best person to judge whether this deliberately more racially diverse and slightly less sexist remake is necessary or not but I enjoyed the film much more than I thought I would. Some reviews might comment that the superlative in the title isn’t justified but I would simply say that the film quite appropriately scores a solid 7 for me.