Akira Kurosawa's THE HIDDEN FORTRESS
Visually, this Kurosawa film (Red Beard, Ikiru, Throne of Blood, Madadayo) as represented on this Criterion DVD is magnificent. The widescreen photography, action scenes, natural surroundings, and Toshiro Mifune's performance are all excellent.
The story: two farmers returning from a war meet up with a general in disguise who is attempting while behind enemy lines to return his princess to the safety of their land along with the family's gold. The general appeals to the greed of the farmers to help him but does not reveal the true nature of the task.
Unfortunately, the story is not as involving as it might be. While there is much humor throughout and an emphasis on honor, bravery, and loyalty overall, which are played off against instances of greed and cowardice, the emotional immediacy of some of Kurosawa's films is not there. This is basically an extremely well made adventure, well acted and produced, but it is an adventure nonetheless. It's fun to watch the master Kurosawa do his thing, but after all is said and done, when it's over it's over.
Disappointingly, there is no full length commentary as is the case with other Kurosawa films on Criterion DVD. However, on the DVD there is a short interview with George Lucas where he describes how The Hidden Fortress influenced the development of the original Star Wars story. That's fun.