"The Magnificent Seven" is a lesson in how you can take what is a rather simple storyline, ply it with recognizable faces as well as a fair smattering of action and make it all come together to be both an entertaining and memorable movie. What is even more special about "The Magnificent Seven" is that it is a remake of Akira Kurosawa's much heralded "Seven Samurai" and does the original a fair amount of justice, more than many others which have attempted to recreate Akira's grasp of storyline and film making.
In "The Magnificent Seven" Yul Brynner stars as Chris, one of seven men who join forces when a group of poor Mexican villagers ask them for help in protecting their village from a bunch of bandits lead by the ruthless Calvera (Eli Wallach - The Holiday).
The storyline to "The Magnificent Seven" is a surprisingly simple one following that old favourite of a group of men helping a small town to defend themselves from the bad guys. There is little more to it that that and even the smattering of romance which reveals itself in places does not detract from the simplistic main theme. Even the way it is all approached is routine with a series of scenes which set up the village and the bad guys before we get introduced to the collection of heroes one by one. It's a well used system and once we have met all the main figures it delivers more routine scenarios as the men teach the helpless villagers how to protect themselves whilst dealing with the bad guy.
You would think because of all this simplicity "The Magnificent Seven" would be a routine run of the mill movie, but it oozes charm drawing you into each of the characters and the villagers so called plight causing us to will on the good guys and literally boo the bad guys. The simplicity of it all is part of its charm because it allows us to just be entertained rather than coerced in to trying to engage in any complex unexpected plot developments. Those plot embellishments it does throw at us never distract from the main storyline just adding a little bit of variation to stop it from being completely plain sailing.
By today's standards the action sequences that pepper "The Magnificent Seven" may seem a little ordinary but then whilst not laden with special effects or over the top stunts they actually create atmosphere. When bad guy Calvera with his gang of bandits returns to the village to discover that Chris and his gang have been employed to help protect the villagers, the way each of the gang suddenly appears helps to build up the atmosphere for the ensuing gun fight. It's this grip on how to deliver the right atmosphere for action sequences which helps make "The Magnificent Seven" memorable aided by the Elmer Bernstein soundtrack punctuating the proceedings to help raise the tension.
But it is the star line up and performances which makes "The Magnificent Seven" both such a memorable and favourite movie amongst many, showing how to work a well known cast of stars so that it's not just a battle of egos. Of course the two central figures to "The Magnificent Seven" are Chris and Vin, played by Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen showing how a strong pairing is critical for leading the movie. But it's also how each plays their characters, you have Brynner playing the cooler and calm Chris, dressed in Black with such an emotionless appearance that you never know what he is thinking. Brynner created such an iconic character that 13 years later he would use it again in the futuristic movie "Westworld". But counter balancing this you have McQueen who manages to convey that same amount of fear but appears more as your traditional rugged cowboy. The pairing is a big part of the reason why "The Magnificent Seven" worked.
But the rest of the cast are equally good as shown by Eli Wallach as bad guy Calvera who delivers that perfect slightly ruthless bandito who is less calculated than say Yul Brynner's Chris but still cunning enough to be the leader. As well as Eli Wallach the cast reads like a list of well known names with Robert Vaughn, Brad Dexter, James Coburn, Charles Bronson and Horst Buchholz who played the inexperienced but enthusiastic Chico, the last member of the gang. But it is the way director John Sturges manages to develop each character which makes the star billing work such as Charles Bronson who plays Bernardo O'Reilly who thanks to being half Mexican - half Irish connects with the villagers more than the others. Sturges makes each one of the magnificent seven human rather than 2 dimensional heroes, so when they put their lives on the line you do champion them.
What this all boils down to is that yes "The Magnificent Seven" is a marvellously entertaining movie, packed full of big stars, good action and a soundtrack which is instantly recognizable. But it is also a lesson on how to make a simple storyline so much more without over complicating things and how you work a movie which could have ended up a battle of egos. It's not the greatest western ever made, but it is one which is both entertaining and memorable worth being in anyone's collection.