Story Analysis: The Magnificent Seven

I haven't seen the original 1960 version, but I have seen the 1954 Akira Kurosawa's Seven Samurai. Akira Kurosawa's version is considered a classic for very good reasons. It's an exceptional film. 

For the new remake, I'm already a fan of the casting: Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Lee Byung-Hun, Vincent D'Onofrio, and Peter Sarsgaard. Furthermore, the film is directed by Antoine Fuqua, a director I'm also a huge fan of. 

Given everyone involved, I have no doubt the film will make a lot of money and be a major success. My analysis isn’t on whether or not I like the movie because I did, but rather where the story could’ve been improved upon.

Chris Pratt as Joshua Faraday

Chris Pratt as Joshua Faraday

After watching the film, almost everything worked in terms of story except for one thing — Chris Pratt’s character, Joshua Faraday. 

We learn early in the film that Joshua Faraday is a gambler who's very good with his guns. We also learn that he’s street smart by the way he handles himself when two brothers get a drop on him. He kills one of the brothers and tells the other one to run away. From that, we infer that he doesn't kill unless it's necessary. So far, so good. 

Later, Denzel Washingon's character, Sam Chisholm, recruits Joshua by paying for his horse. Josuha is obligated to join Sam in his mission to save the town against an army of bad people as a way of paying back debt. Again, so far, so good. 

Sam quickly recruits the rest of the Magnificent Seven:

  1. Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke) is Sam’s good friend and “noble”, willing to befriend blacks and Asians when his Caucasian peers are too ignorant to consider them their equals.
  2. Billy Rocks (Lee Byung-Hun) is Goodnight's good friend and we get the sense that he’s been fighting against injustice all his life until he befriended Goodnight.
  3. Jack Horne (Vincent D'Onofrio) is a skilled tracker who is more shamanistic now. He joins the team because he feels that it is the right thing to do. 
  4. Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier) is a Comanche warrior who befriends Sam and is therefore obligated to join him in his mission. 
  5. Vasquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo) is a Mexican outlaw who joins simply because it seems fun and crazy. 

Later, we get hints from the conversation between Goodnight and Sam that Sam didn't take on this mission for a noble cause, but rather for revenge.

So far, so good. We understand everyone's motivation for joining this crazy mission. 

However, towards the end of the film, Joshua's character becomes an enigma. 

Even though Sam explicitly tells him that Joshua is free to leave as he has already paid back his debt, Joshua decides to sacrifice himself and that's where the story lost me. 

Why did Joshua sacrifice himself? We get no indication whatsoever. Family? Nothing. Religion? Nope. Honor? His character didn't exactly give off that vibe. So, why did he sacrifice himself? 

If only we got to know Joshua a little better, then his sacrifice would have been that much more impactful. Instead, I was wondering why in the world did he do that? 

Now, Chris Pratt is an extremely likable actor and not the main protagonist in the film and so maybe the writers and director thought that they showed enough for people to understand. I didn't and maybe it's just me. 

LESSON: The more we know about the character’s motivation, the more invested we are in them.