The Hero’s Journey in “The Magnificent Seven”

Director John Sturges found in the traditional Western the perfect vessel for Kurosawa’s honourable warrior codes, outlaw versus drifter themes, and suitably tense action set-pieces. Thus, “The Magnificent Seven” emerges as not only ludicrously enjoyable entertainment but also a superior and thoughtful character study.

The story – oppressed villagers beg mysterious loner to round up some hired gunmen to fight fearsome bandits – may lack depth but is ultimately perfect for the type of crowd-pleasing antics that the Western thrived on. However, Sturges’ efficient shift in location is not the only aid to his cause. Blessed with such a charismatic cast, bristling with chemistry, the film elevates beyond simple Good versus Evil ciphers, allowing Sturges to consolidate themes of male bonding and alienation into teeming drama.

They punctuate the film with outstanding performances, particularly the relationship between Brynner’s black-clad, enigmatic loner and McQueen’s laconic gunman. Elsewhere, Horst Bucholz’s deluded wannabe and Brad Dexter’s avaricious glory-hound provide excellent support along with distinctive early career turns from Coburn, Bronson, and Vaughn.