Shinobi is state of the art Japanese high budget historical romantic dramatic action. The story is not Romeo and Juliet with throwing stars, as tempting as it is to use that line. (So tempting I used it anyway.) However, it is fated lovers and there were throwing stars, so that’s all good.
There’s a minimalist plot which, for much of the movie, looked like it was going to leave me hanging in terms of story satisfaction. I’d been sort of middling satisfied as the various ninjas, each with their own unique fighting style — excellent fight choreography — battled and struggled and died. But then the final confrontation turns out to not be the two lovers; rather, their story transmutes into the driving engine for something which is in the end more important. And that rocked.
It actually made me wanna see it again, just to pick up on the real plot, which I think flows alongside the romance throughout the entire movie. There’s a bit early on when the leaders of the two ninja tribes are confronting one another alone. On first viewing, I thought it was an echo of the romance. Now I’m pretty sure there’s more to it than that.
The cinematography was absolutely gorgeous, aided immensely by those big craggy Japanese mountain vistas, and it avoided being glossy. I was expecting something at a sort of Azumi level of polish, but instead we got a subtly colored palette with depth.
The acting was decent. I think the two leads are both medium hot Japanese stars at the sort of Colin Ferrell/Kiera Knightley level, but they inhabited their roles well enough. Good action, as I mentioned. Kippei Shiina was particularly awesome as the ninja who isn’t immortal, “Just bad at dying.” Tak Sakaguchi was his usual excellent self.