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The Hidden Blade Review

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A samurai falls in love with a woman he can never marry, while his friend - and superior swordsman - is implicated in a political plot. Now holed up with a house full of hostages, they must face off.

★★★★★

Yôji Yamada returns to familiar ground with a slow-burning period melodrama that plays like a companion piece to his 2002 treasure Twilight Samurai, although its glister is dulled somewhat by the tarnish of familiarity. It concerns a luckless samurai (Masatoshi Nagase) trying to balance his devotion to a failing creed in late 19th century feudal Japan with his longing for a woman (Takako Matsu) denied him by his superior social standing. The story follows a similar pattern to its predecessor, both films weaving together a string of subtle vignettes that smoulder with unspoken passion. Sadly, though, the fire never quite catches, even at the climax: much like The Hidden Blade’s protagonists, the director adheres too strictly to the samurai code of restraint.

A subtle and emotive period drama that mirrors its highly praised predecessor, Twilight Samurai, with director Yôji Yamada spinning another tale of emotional restraint and uncertainty in the closing years of feudal Japan.

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