Friday, November 06, 2009
Years of warfare end in a Japan unified under the Tokugawa shogunate, and samurai spy Sasuke Sarutobi, tired of conflict, longs for peace. When a high-ranking spy named Tatewaki Koriyama defects from the shogun to a rival clan, however, the world of swordsman is thrown into turmoil. After Sasuke is unwittingly drawn into the conflict, he tracks Tatewaki, while a mysterious, white-hooded figure seems to hunt them both. By tale's end, no one is who they seemed to be, and the truth is far more personal than anyone suspected. Director Masahiro Shinoda's Samurai Spy, filled with clan intrigue, ninja spies, and multiple double crosses, marks a bold stylistic departure from swordplay convention.
Ibun Sarutobi Sasuke is the Japanese name of this film. This movie takes place 14 years after the great battle of Sekigahara in 1600 and in the days and months leading up to the final ultimate battle between the Tokugawa and the Toyotomi in the Battle of Osaka in 1614. Samurai Spies and ninja from both sides are battling it out in constantly shifting alliances. No one can be sure whose side any person or group is on. Sasuke is tired of the wars from the past but he is unable to avoid being drawn in.
Although the title is not very creative, this is a pretty damn good movie with many plot twists and surprises. It's unfortunate that they couldn't come up with a better name for Western audiences so people would not think this is just some corny samurai/ninja flick. There are some very good sword fighting scenes involving both samurai and ninja. The ninja action was not cheesy or silly at all. In fact, one of the final combat scenes between Sasuke and two ninja was pretty damn cool with just the right amount of violence and gore without making it a goofy chanbara scene. I really liked the mix of samurai and ninjas and the ninja were not overused in this film so it actually gave the whole espionage aspect a bit of believability in my opinion. It was a more realistic portrayal of espionage, conspiracies and political power struggles than some other movies I've watched. This film, like many other samurai movies with many characters, really requires you to pay attention closely to keep up with whose who.