47 Ronin is a 2013 Japanese-American film and fictional account of the real life 47 Ronin or masterless Samurai who’s tales of adventure and revenge stem from 18th century Japan. The film was directed by Carl Rinsch and stars Keanu Reeves and Hiroyuki Sanada. The story is simple, set against a beautiful backdrop of Japanese landscapes and intricate costumes and exuberant & intricate sword fighting scenes.
The story is about Kai a half-Japanese, half-English boy who is found fainted in the woods by a party led by benevolent Lord Asano Naganori of the province of Ako. The boy had been running from a changeling and lose consciousness even as he tries to fend off grasping hands. Asano takes the boy in and he is raised in the household but his half-breed status makes him the topic of jokes and ridicule among the residents of Ako. Only Mika, Asano’s daughter, sees him for who he is and the two fall in love which is kept in secret. Before a visit from Shogun Tokugawa Tsunayoshi, Lord Asano is visited by the Shogun’s master of ceremonies, Lord Kira, who becomes attracted to Mika. A celebration is held during which Kira’s champion – a huge Samurai – has to face off against a champion from Ako. Oishi, principal counselor to Lord Asano, picks Yasuno to be Ako’s champion based on the fact that the latter had killed a dragon they were hunting but in truth it was Kai who killed the beast. Just before the ceremonial duel, Yasuno is found incapacitated – the work of a powerful he sorceress Mizuki who is working for Kira – and in order to save Ako’s reputation, Kai dons the amour and fights the large Samurai. In the duel his headgear comes off and he is sentenced for punishment by the Shogun.
Later that night, Mizuki bewitches Asano into believing Kira is raping Mika, causing Asano to attack an unarmed Kira in delirium. The punishment for trying to kill an officiate is death but the Shogun allows Asano to die with honour in a ritual suicide. The domain of Ako is handed over to Lord Kira, and the Shogun brands Oishi and his men Ronin (masterless Samurai). Kira demands Mika’s hand in marriage on the spot, but the Shogun grants her one year to mourn the death of her father, and forbids the Ronin of Ako from seeking vengeance. To ensure there is no interference, Kira imprisons Oishi in an outdoor pit to break his spirit. Almost a year later, Oishi is released to go back to his family and once recovered he gets his son Chikara to get him horses and goes to find Kai, who was sold into slavery in the fighting pits of the Dutch colony of Dejima. They escape from there and go to the forests where Kai was found as a boy and armed with their new weapons, the Ronin plan to attack Kira on his pilgrimage to a shrine as he seeks blessings for his wedding to Mika. Several Ronin are killed in an ambush but Kira’s soldiers false believe that the lot of them have died and return back.
The 47 remaining Ronin take help of a band of traveling performers loyal to the memory of Lord Asano, Kai and Oishi infiltrate Kira and Mika’s wedding ceremony, giving Mika an opportunity to flee as the Ronin scale the walls and attack Kira’s men. Kai and Mika attempt to escape together, but are attacked by Mizuki, who takes the form of a dragon. Kai draws on the mystical powers of the Tengu he possesses, and ends her life. Oishi emerges with Kira’s severed head, and Kira’s men surrender. Heading back to the Shogun’s palace, the Ronin are are sentenced to death as they explicitly violated the Shogun’s command to not seek revenge. However, the Shogun finds that they followed the principles of Bushido in their actions, restoring their honor as samurai. Hence instead of being execute like criminals, the 47 men are allowed to perform the ritual suicide and are to be given the honour of being buried next to their master. Before they can start, the Shogun grants a pardon to Chikara as he didn’t want Oishi’s bloodline to die out. The remaining former Ronin continue with the ritual.
Storywise it is pretty wonderful and adventurous and brings you back to an era of old glory and courage. Ofcourse the mystical & mythical elements are all there and we have a lot to look at with the beautifully shot movie. But it lacks clarity & you are never fully involved in the plot nor are the characters fully fleshed out. That makes the film forgettable and I can see why it failed at the box office. I will give it a 6.5 outta 10 just for the spectacular shots!