For all Kurosawa's splendidly colourful recreation of 16th century Japan, and though Nakadai's performance is impressive enough, it's all ultimately rather empty and tedious; it could easily have been cut by almost an hour, while the grating Morricone-like score only serves to underline the fact that the director fails to achieve the emotional force of his finest work.
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What are critics saying?
Something large and abstract is stirring here, though the film's ultimate implications are chilling
The film vibrates with a profound respect for historical veracity, the busy intersection between political sociology and psychology, and grunting, portentous masculinity.
An often overlooked fine entry in the Kurasawa canon, this shows a good many western 'epics' how it's done.
Simple, bold, and colorful on the surface, but very thoughtful.
Though the story's Shakespearean underpinnings give Kagemusha the weight of classic tragedy–in this case, the tragedy of a man rendered helpless by larger historical forces–the film astonishes mostly as pure spectacle.
There is beauty in Kagemusha but it is impersonal, distant and ghostly. The old master has never been more rigorous. [06 Oct 1980, p.14]