If Kagemusha falls short dramatically, and many admirers may not share that impression, the sag occurs at an awesome level of filmmaking prowess. Ironically, this tale of a shadow warrior is diminished only by the length and intensity of the artistic shadow thrown by Kurosawa in his prime. [21 Nov 1980, p.F1]
The massive battle scenes rank with the director's best, using brilliant color, contrasting light, and the enormous cast to great advantage. Kurosawa also alternates compelling scenes of near hypnotic stillness with scenes of rousing action.
For all Kurosawa's splendidly colourful recreation of 16th century Japan, and though Nakadai's performance is impressive enough, it's all ultimately rather empty and tedious; it could easily have been cut by almost an hour, while the grating Morricone-like score only serves to underline the fact that the director fails to achieve the emotional force of his finest work.