BLADE OF THE IMMORTAL (Japan | UK/16/140mins)
Directed by Takashi Miike. Starring Takuya Kimura, Hana Sugisaki, Sôta Fukushi, Hayato Ichihara, Erika Toda.
THE PLOT: Samurai Manji (Takuya Kimura) finds himself on the run with his sister after he turns on his superior. Mortally wounded in a legendary battle that leaves his sister dead, Manji is cursed with immortality and decides the only way for him to save his soul. Fifty years later Manjii is sought out by a young girl named Rin (Hana Sugisaki), whose family was brutally murdered by ruthless warrior Anotsu (Sôta Fukushi).
THE VERDICT: ‘Blade of the Immortal’ marks director Takashi Miike’s 100th film behind the camera, and is based on a Manga of the same name. The story is a big, old-fashioned warrior revenge flick, but there are times when the 140 minute running time feels all too evident.
The lead cast, Takuya Kimura, Hana Sugisaki and Sôta Fukushi, do well with their roles, showing tenacity, ferocity and strength throughout the film, and making their characters come to life with motivations that feel real and rounded. Manji, played by Takuya Kimura, perhaps goes through the strongest evolution throughout the film, and he is a character that is frustrating at times, but one who the audience finds themselves rooting for.
Tetsuya Oishi’s screenplay, based on Hiroaki Samura’s Manga, creates a world full of heightened characters that feel as though they belong in the world of the film. The film struggles, however, in getting between the glorious and violent fight sequences that punctuate the film. The transitions between the fights are the parts of the film that feel drawn out and slow, and as though the film is dragging its heels, and just waiting for another conflict to happen, just to kick the pacing up as a notch. As well as this, there are times when the character of Manji is sketched strangely, and alternates between ferocious and defeated, leaving it hard for the audience to root for him, even though we want to.
As director, Takashi Miike makes sure that ‘Blade of the Immortal’ is beautiful and striking throughout, and does not sky away from bloody violence, but there are times when it feels as though he struggles in making the overall arc of the story truly engaging and well paced. That said, everything comes together in the end, with old scores and new ones being settled on the battlefield.
In all, ‘Blade of the Immortal’ is a beautifully shot, but frustratingly paced film. Everything comes together by the final act, but the road that the audience travels over the 140 minute running time sometimes feels as though it is going nowhere. The overall feel is rewarding, but there are times when ‘Blade of the Immortal’ feels like a slog, rather than an adventure.
Review by Brogen Hayes