Approved | 2h 8min | Action, Adventure, Western | 12 October 1960 (USA)
A large band of banditos, led by a man named Calvera (Eli Wallach), has been plaguing a small Mexican village for years. They’ve parasitically attached themselves to the remote place, taking what they want but leaving the farmers just enough to survive and grow new crops—just so they can return and reap their ill-gotten gains again.
Determined to finally shake off their tormentors, a small contingent of men from the village travel to another settlement to seek help. When they arrive, they encounter a mysterious drifter named Chris Adams (Yul Brynner). After they inform him of their plight, Chris agrees to back them up. However, he’s only one man—but not for long.
A fellow drifter, Vin Tanner (Steve McQueen), signs up to help out, after losing all of his money in a local gambling bid.
Chris’s old buddy Harry Luck (Brad Dexter) shows up, as does Lee (Robert Vaughn), knife-fighter Britt (James Coburn), half-Irish, half-Mexican Bernardo O’Reilly (Charles Bronson), and firebrand Chico (Horst Buchholz).
Each man has his own motivation for joining the group; for instance, Chico is a young man who is out to prove himself, while Bernardo is a veteran gunfighter who has fallen on hard times and needs the meager $20 that Chris is offering.
When they arrive at the village, they find the locals willing to fight for their turf. The seven gunfighters commence to training the villagers and also set up defensive fortifications. Everyone settles in and awaits the return of the bad guys.
That day eventually comes—Calvera and his band of raiders ride back into the tiny settlement. Only this time, he is surprised to find Chris and his posse waiting for them. The lead bandit senses that the seven defenders are a major threat and tactfully retreats back to his base. However, Chico managed to infiltrate the bandits and is able to relay information to Chris and the village leaders.
Somehow, the bandits manage to sneak into the village and set up an ambush for Chris and his men. Surprisingly, instead of killing them, the bandits’ leader merely orders the seven men to lay down their guns. Calvera tells them to leave the village and never return. Chris and his men reluctantly abide by the bandit leader’s terms.
Eventually, Chris and his men return to the village and force the bandits into a showdown—with the innocent villagers caught in the middle. But who will survive and who won’t?
The film’s classic score, by brilliant composer Elmer Bernstein, fits the Old West visuals very capably. And performance-wise, Brynner is fantastic as the black-clad, mysterious gunslinger whose face reveals much more than his few words let on. McQueen is equally fascinating as Brynner’s right-hand man. The only complaint I have is that Bronson’s character wasn’t given more screentime—but with such a star-studded ensemble, it’s understandable for the sake of the film’s runtime.
“The Magnificent Seven” is an uplifting classic that shows not only the resilience of common people but also the unexpected kindness of strangers. It’s an empowering film that emphasizes comradery and resistance in the face of tyranny, no matter what the odds.