(4 / 5)
Blade of the Immortal is so stylised in it’s over-the-top gory nature that it will definitely turn some people off. However it also knows so whole-heartily what it is that it’s almost inevitable that it shall gain a great following in the future. It is a classic revenge story with a samurai setting and goes extremely colourful and off the wall with it’s execution.
We open in feudal Japan and in Black & White where a swordsman, Manji (Takuya Kimura) is hacking down others. He is with his sister who is disjointed from the situation, it then comes to a fight with probably fifty bandits, they kill his sister and he proceeds to hack them all to pieces, getting a face-scar that also takes his right eye. He lays there dying but a woman in white appears over him saying he cannot simply die like this after killing so many. She drops a Bloodworm into his heart which regenerates his body and making him immortal. Now the movie transforms to colour.
Then cut to fifty years later where a sword-fighting school is teaching it’s students in the art. One particularly eager student is young Rin (Hana Sugisaki), who’s eager to learn the ways of the warrior but uninterested in being ladylike. One night men come to their school saying that they are uniting the country in their teachings of fighting and removing all the others. The leader kills her parents but leaves her alive, after an old woman in white tells her of an immortal swordsman that can help her take revenge.
Manji is like Toshiro Mifune reincarnated. He walks with attitude and with a low gravelly voice. Because of the scar (which inexplicably does not heal), he channels all his emotions and intensity through his left eye with great skill. Rin is one of those cute, young but spirited young female characters that are thrown into a much more brutal world than they are used to but hold strong. Their quest introduced then to many other fighters, all with a different visual style, backstory and physical challenge.
It seems that in all narrative about immortality that it is either bestowed upon people that long for death or denied to those that seek it. Here is a man that lost everything but still lives and doesn’t want to get involved in another conflict. It must also be asked that if Manji is immortal then what are the stakes when he fights? Well he’s not impervious to pain, so there’s that. But also it’s not just about him but Rin, so that also helps.
This is the one hundredth movie by director Takashi Miike. Most directors work at a rate of a movie every two or three years. Woody Allen remains at a rate of one movie a year. Mike works at a rate of five to eight movies a year. They all range from genre pieces, the the mainstream to experimental works. The man loves and is dedicated to his craft more than any other working director.
The style of the movie is contrasted with extreme angels and movements with more carefully composited shots that remain static and let the characters speak. These slower moments are very welcomed. To have extreme angles and a fast moving camera can be visually gripping, but if it was all that there would never be any moments for the audience to breathe (which is essential!). This allows for a digestible passé where action commences, then we absorb it, then another fight happens knowing everything that just happened and the consequences.
This movie is for the people that like Tarantino and Kurosawa and anime in general. Ones that don’t necessarily need original story-lines or a quite passé. This movie starts out with a brutal action scene, if you are already hooked then it is the movie for you, if not then it wont win you over.