Directed by Bernard Rose the man that made creepy classic Paperhouse and the 2015 update of Frankenstein, Samurai Marathon also known as Samurai Marathon 1855, is an epic tale inspired by historical events about a time of great turmoil where Japans past and future collided.
Opening in the late feudal era with the arrival of the United States Black Ships who had come to the secretive and insular country to start up trade, the wonder of new inventions the arrogant Americans bring and the opportunity to open Japan to the world brings with it the fear of change and the loss of their great society and traditions.
One lord is particularly shaken by the sudden appearance of the outsiders and believes his men have become weak in mind, body and spirt during this long peaceful period which he sees may be at an end. Hearing the lords request that all his samurai gather for an important announcement the quiet and unassuming Jinnai Karasawa (Takeru Satoh) who is actually a ninja spy mascaraing as a loyal samurai assumes that the clan are going to revolt and sends a message to his true master the emperor for troops to be sent to pacify the uprising.
Jinnai assumption is tragically incorrect as all the lord wants is for his men to run a marathon across the rough terrain of his land from the palace and back again to prove their mettle and merit. The winner will be granted one wish and this inspires all sorts of people from a spirited princess to a lowly foot soldiers to a love struck samurai to a young boy and an aged guard to take part in hopes of winning their hearts desire.
As the race begins Jinnai realises it is too late to stop his ill-informed request and armed with the knowledge that a gang of the emperors best mercenaries are on their way to wipe out his friends and comrades he must run for his life while trying to save everyone else’s.
Made by the team behind 13 Assassins and The Last Emperor Samurai Marathon is a lush and beautiful looking movie perfectly scored by the genius composer Phillip Glass who also scored Bernard Rose Candyman, perhaps his best known film.
Although very different from that urban myth horror masterpiece Rose’s eye for action and drama is still on point and the story which he co-wrote the screenplay for is wonderfully told weaving a vast variety of characters together all determined in different ways to win the marathon and prove their worth.
Samurai Marathon much like a great runner delivers from start to finish. Blending romance, heartfelt drama, moments of humour and plenty of sword slashing bloodletting action all of which plays out alongside a historical sporting tale is no mean feat yet somehow it works.
Signature Entertainment Presents Samurai Marathon on Digital HD 20th January