I usually review books but I watched The Magnificent 7 last night and it stuck with me for a few reasons, mainly because of all the conversations going on right now about whitewashing in movies. WARNING: this post contains MAJOR spoilers.
Overview: The Magnificent 7 is about the valley of Rose Creek, a small farm community down river of a mine shortly after the Civil War. The settlers are being forced out by an unscrupulous mine owner. They go in search of help and find it in Sam Chisholm.
Sam (played by Denzel Washington) recruits six other men to assist him in protecting this town. The main cast of gunmen consists of an African-American, a Mexican, a Native-American, an Asian (please forgive me that I can’t be more specific, the movie mentions Shenghai so I’m assuming Chinese but I could be wrong), and three Caucasians of various backgrounds. As well, of the two main townsfolk you focus on, one is female, and she’s a good shot and she’s got a lot of guts.
There were several reasons why this movie stuck with me.
- The POC cast members were played by actors of those nationalities. There was no white washing in this movie. Of the named characters with lines 5 were non-white, 10 were white. Still leaning to the white roles of course, but more balanced than other movies.
- The main character, ring leader, and driving force of the movie was Denzel Washington. The second character slot would have to go either to Chris Pratt or Hailey Bennet.
- The black man is not a criminal. In fact he’s a sanctioned warrant officer in Kansas and a peace officer in 7 states and the Indian Province.
- The female lead is not helpless. She is courageous and winds up fighting alongside the men. At the same time she does not have to cut her hair or wear pants. She is a widow and she doesn’t have to fall in love with one of the gun men.
- The movie passes the Bechdel Test. There are two named female characters and they talk about something other than men, though only briefly and only once. Still, combine this with the fact that the female lead has a story arc that centers on revenge and not romance, and that she has agency and fulfills her own story arc, those are all pluses.
- The story line focuses on a conflict between a white town and a white business man. This isn’t a white-invasion of Native land movie (except of course that all those early western towns were built on Native land, but that’s not the focus of the movie). This isn’t a white-saviour movie with a white man coming in and saving a Native village.
- SPOILER Of all the gunmen, only one of the POC characters dies. That’s right. The three surviving gunmen are all POC. And not a single woman dies in the final fight sequence that you see, or that is overly focused on. And they ride off together. No lone hero at the end of this movie.
- The movie actually shows the men bonding (a short fall in Suicide Squad). While some of their motives for being in the fight are thin by the time it comes to “this is your last chance to bale” they are all committed to the town and each other and you believe it.
- The movie shows a character with PTSD. I’m not sure how well they do with this representation, I would love to hear other opinions on this, but he’s there, and he knows something is “wrong”.
- The stunts were action movie big but too far over the top. Reload times weren’t shortened too badly. People took a realistic amount of damage. Property damage was realistic too.
The movie was fun. There were some amazing lines in there that made me chuckle. The pacing was good – you had time to connect to the characters, there were conversations, but there was tension and more than one action sequence. The movie built to a peak and had a fulfilling climax and conclusion.
My only complaint? Her voice over at the end was DUMB. They could have made a much stronger ending, something without the cliche and corniness. Overall I give it 4.5 stars.