Harakiri ★★★★★

Honestly, on the basis of shot composition alone, Harakiri is one of the most impressive movies I've ever seen. Every frame here feels like a work of art, each moment having me positively glued to the screen. There are sequences here, and individual frames, that I wanted to rewind and witness over and over again. Masaki Kobayashi's film is loaded with far more than just that, however. Rich with complex characters and a fascinating examination of toxic masculinity, of the hypocrisy and contradictions of those in power, corruption and depraved lack of empathy for people in need, this is a movie that I know I'm going to be rewatching many times, and I can only imagine how I'll get even more out of it with each viewing.

The first experience is a fascinating journey into a mystery that unfolds in the most exciting and unpredictable of ways. I really wasn't expecting any number of reveals that this movie had in store for me, with a razor sharp script that always had me on my toes. Especially in the early stages of the movie I kept finding myself wondering where this story was going, and having no idea how to even guess where things were going to end up. I find that's a pretty rare experience to have with a movie, and one that I was extraordinarily grateful for. That can only get you so far, though, as that freshness expires after a certain point. Once the cards are essentially on the table, Harakiri's layers are peeled back and even more profound observations come out onto the surface. This damning indictment of the powers that be is a call to action against corrupt organizations, and a heartbreaking reaction to the futility of those who would hope to rebel against them.

One of the very few examples of a framing device that I think works extraordinarily well for the story that's being laid out before us, the movie does threaten to stall a bit with the extended flashback section in the second act. After a lightning paced first half of the movie, the pace does slow considerably during this portion, but ultimately that decision is a rewarding one as it gives us so much more time to live in the experience of these characters, and what brings us to the point where we're at in the present day of the movie's story. It's a necessary come down from that blistering opening half, and necessary to give the movie the emotional impact that's to come in the final act. That last act is powered through with one breathtaking sequence after another, including the final flashback scene (a duel between two of the main characters) that is one of the most masterful sequences I've ever seen in cinema. The brutality on display in this movie hits extremely hard, as do the emotional gut punches, but nothing hits harder than the power of Kobayashi's political and societal statements.

Mitchell liked this review