Top positive review
A "remake" that was worth making.
Reviewed in the United States on September 25, 2018
Over 5000 reviews already. I haven't read them all, and don't expect many people to scroll down to this one. I'm writing this review more for myself.
But somewhere in all those reviews, someone has probably noted that the "original" Magnificent Seven was itself a remake, of Kurosawa's "Seven Samurai". Each of those films worked perfectly well in its own way, each can be enjoyed on its own terms. And despite the fact that one takes place in 16th century Japan, and the other in 19th century Mexico, the stories have great similarities, and a common theme.
This 2016 remake works because it finds its own original way to address that theme. Once again, a group of mercenaries finds moral purpose in helping ordinary people defend themselves against a remorseless enemy. The actual situation is a bit different than in the previous two films, and the head villain is not merely ruthless, but positively psychotic. Once again, though, compromise is not an option, only fighting or total surrender. But it's hard to fight without at least a few people on your side who actually know how.
The entire cast is good. Denzel Washington always makes the most out of his roles, of course. Vincent D'Onofrio is excellent as the mountain man who at first seems almost to have forgotten how to be human. Haley Bennett almost steals any scene she is in as the indomitable widow who seeks righteousness, but will settle for revenge. And Ethan Hawke hits just the right notes as the man who has a great reputation, but fears he can no longer live up to it.
Don't think remake, then, although there are obvious nods to the 1960 film, not least when the credits begin to roll. Knowing the previous films may add to your appreciation of this film, but it stands very well on its own.