The film The Magnificent Seven is a classic Western about a group of gunslingers who selflessly defend a town against enormous odds.
In the 1960 version (starring Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen), the men fight off bandits in a Mexican village. In the 2016 version (starring Denzel Washington), they combat a ruthless robber baron in a frontier town.
In both versions of the film, the gunfighters are unquestionably heroes – strong, courageous, and expert at their craft. In each version, however, one man in the group wrestles with demons from his past.
In the 1960 version, the character “Lee” (played by Robert Vaughn of “Man from UNCLE” fame) fears he has lost his nerve. Haunted by the enemies he has killed, Lee suffers from nightmares. He drinks. His hands tremble. He breaks out in a cold sweat at the thought of battle.
In the 2016 version, the character “Goodnight Robicheaux” (played by Ethan Hawke) is a former Confederate marksman who now has difficulty taking aim. Goodnight sees hallucinations that he fears foretell his death.
Both men worry that they will not be able to perform when called upon to do so, that they will let others down. Both consider themselves weak and cowardly.
A Different Perspective
But the audience does not view them that way. The audience feels enormous compassion for these characters.
Both men stumble. Yet they somehow find the courage to face their fears, in defense of others. That they are flawed is one reason The Magnificent Seven has such a powerful impact. Their internal struggles make the film more compelling. Continue reading