I will try to give you a general outline of the flick without spoiling it for you, here it goes...
For anyone who has seen the classic 1963 film by Eiichi Kudo you won't be disappointed, director Takashi Miike takes us into the world of 1840's Japan with an elegance and brutality which is rarely rivaled on the big screen without being overly gratuitous.
The story takes us into a time when the Samurai are beginning to have less of a role within Japanese society. The nation is at peace under the Shogun, yet his half brother, the Lord Matsudaira Naritsugu is a sadistic tyrant who kills and tortures in order to fulfill his insane need to exhort his own power over innocent subjects of the Shogun.
Doi Toshitsura, an official working for the Shogun realizes that Lord Matsudaira will soon ascend to a higher political position which could lead to war among the various clans, a war which had not been seen for quite some time. Doi sends for Shinzaemon, an older Samurai of some fame, whose life has turned to one which, though peaceful and pleasant, may not guarantee him an honorable death.
During the initial meeting between Doi and Shinzaemon, Doi explains his intention, and entrusts the responsibility for ridding Japan of the vile Lord Matsudaira to him. To say Shinzaemon is shocked is an understatement, but before he can answer, Doi shows a barely living survivor of Lord Matsudaira's sadism.
The old Samurai suddenly realizes, that his prayer for an honorable death has been answered and rejoices in the fury caused by the injustice he has just been shown.
Shinzaemon, gathers to him 11 Samurai and strategizes his plan, a plan which will have him making alliances, returning honor to families and taking a stand against an army from which there appears to be no escape. Later in the movie, he is joined in his quest by two others.
The movie boasts incredible cinematography, story line (which is apparently based on actually events), and directing. But, the acting is what really stands out; all the actors perform with the mannerisms which can be described as being that of traditional Japanese cinema, yet their emotional voyage is as good a performance as I have ever seen from any actor; you can't help but feel the righteousness of their endeavor, their pain, their anger and, yes, there are a few times where you find yourself laughing.
The sword choreography is absolutely exceptional, I was completely immersed in the battle scenes, unlike the pause and duck of, let's say, Chinese martial arts cinema. It displays not only the awesome respect the Samurai had for their steel, but also the deadliness with which they wielded it.
The final battle is probably one, if not, the most intense and bloodiest I have ever seen, again, while staying true to the brutal reality of 19th century Japanese warfare.
I urge you to not deny yourself the opportunity to see this picture, to do so would be to deprive yourself of one of the greatest cinematic events of the past couple years. Also, for God sake, don't watch it dubbed in English.