Lately, remakes are a dime a dozen. You can see ‘reboots’ of True Grit and Terminator, you can watch small screen versions of Lethal Weapon, Poltergeist, Frequency, and MacGyver. And now, Yul Brynner’s classic, itself a remake of Seven Samurai, received the Antoine Fuqua-ized version, complete with Denzel Washington and enough racial diversity to make The Fast & The Furious franchise jealous. But lost in the hyper – and the criticisms of its retread feel – is a soul that is incredibly spiritual.
When villainous Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard) rolls into town to set this all in motion, he and his men kill with a disregard for human life. That’s standard operating procedure for villains, right? But (somewhat ineffectively) Bogue’s orders include razing the church to the ground, the safe place where the townspeople have met to conduct their conversation about the Bogue onslaught. Rogue’s mentality is that if he destroys the church, he will rip out their soul; if the church is destroyed, the people no longer have a community to hold onto and they will become subservient beasts.
This proves to be true – except for the young woman, Emma Cullen (Haley Bennett), who seeks out the peacekeeping warrant officer, Sam Chisum (Washington). Chisum asks if she’s seeking revenge – she says she’s seeking righteousness.
Through loops and turns, and a body count that would make Braveheart blush, the remade Magnificent Seven bears the marks of Fuqua’s films, especially Training Day (see Ethan Hawke join Washington again). But when push comes to shove … the finale is all about church again.
While the church becomes the defensible position that the townspeople, behind their fearless leaders, attempt to hold, it’s also where the finality of judgment upon Bogue falls, too. We’ve known – from past experience or paying attention – that Bogue and Chisum go “way back.” Ironically, that will all play out – but it’s also the stage on which righteousness (a justified kill) and vengeance (murder) get played out. In church.
I was reluctant to write about the film at first, but after seeing the way that some have responded to it, I felt (in Old Western terms) obliged to defend its honor. While we sometimes need our films painted in black and white, while we often look for things to be completely spelled out for us (I’m looking at you, faith community), Magnificent Seven subtly points us back to what God wants for our lives, what the church should mean in our communities, and what our decisions show us about what we believe.
In the end, Magnificent Seven takes us to church – and we’re better for it.
On Blu-ray, fans of the film can experience “Vengeance Mode” where Fuqua and the cast break down the pivotal scenes that make the update to the original work. There are also deleted scenes, a focus on the gunslinging ways of the characters, and the ways that the cast pulled off their movie stunts (hello, Vincent D’Onofrio!) The Blu-ray ALSO shows the features included on the DVD – “Directing the Seven,” “Rogue Bogue,” “The Seven” and “Magnificent Music.”