Toshiro Mifune did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Detective Murakami in Stray Dog.
Mifune of course is almost always kind of the individualist within even the communal society in every Kurosawa film, which he's here too, but more on that later. This though is the pioneer of the buddy cop duo specifically the veteran detective, here Sato played by Takashi Shimura, and the rookie Mifune's Murakami. The film follows them as they work together to find the "stray dog" aka the man who has Murakami's gun that he's using to violently rob people. Again as much as Mifune stands out as a performer he is not a showboat in all reality and does not stand in the way of his co-stars. Mifune here has, once again, terrific chemistry with Takashi Shimura, this perhaps being their best collaboration in terms of their direct interactions. Mifune knows how to share a scene as does Shimura and the two of them develop naturally the relationship between the detective. They find the right dynamic in every regard with Shimura always emphasizing the wisdom of the old mentor, while Mifune emphases the youth and inexperience of Murakami. The two only amplify this further through the striking way they interact in every scene. I love the way they contrast with Shimura always so calm, yet with certain type of potential energy in the right way in portraying the way Sato deals with a crime, against Mifune who depicts that pent up urgency of a man who both has never solved a case before but has a desperate need to do so.
Now in that desperate need is where we get the really the crux of the character and as expected Mifune uses it to realize Murakami as a distinct man. In the opening scene we get just brief moment of the a cocky young man seemingly quite happy in his job as he does target practice. Mifune in that brief moment doesn't reveal him as this huge ego, but rather seemingly someone on the rise in his life. The loss of the gun causes that shift though and Mifune is terrific in revealing that shattered confidence that stems the early desperation in Murakami as he attempts to recover the weapon. When the gun gets into the wrong hands though, and his loss inadvertently causes death due to the violent man who bought it, Mifune naturally shifts the character again. Mifune brings such a powerful emotion within the case by keeping this underlying and so palatable shame within Murakami. Every time they hear news of an injury or death caused by the gun, Mifune is terrific in the way his reactions convey the immediate deep despair in Murakami as that shame rises to the surface once again. Mifune makes this facet of the character but does not allow it to overwhelm the role entirely as he delves deeper into Murakami all the while the investigation continues on. Within that there is a key facet to the character which is Murakami's relationship to the man they are trying to catch.
Murakami's association to the stray dog is not of any real association, but rather a connection in theoretical mutual experience as both were former soldiers from the war who came back to their normal lives with nothing to show for it. The experience of the war, something that Mifune had experienced in real life as well, is something innately in his performances as it can be found within his personal intensity as a performer even when he's not directly emotional. This provides such a depth within his work here as Murakami as within his approach there is an undeniable sense within his performance of technically a harsher life that was behind him though still haunts him to a certain extent. When Murakami speaks of the stray dog, and how he could have potentially gone his way of life given his similair circumstances, Mifune is outstanding in the way his eyes seem to look within to convey the way Murakami is examining his own pains from the past. This is a consistent factor that Mifune brilliantly realizes though is naturally eased within the story as Sato always counters that Murakami is indeed a better man. Mifune beautifully realizes within his work they idea of that thought that perpetuates throughout. Again Mifune even when not front and center never wastes a moment. In his moments with Shimura, when he presents an overt comfort towards the younger man, Mifune effectively portrays the slight ease yet not removal of these thoughts that are a burden to the man. One of the best moments within Mifune's performance though is almost silent when he listens to the stray dog's girlfriend defend his actions by essentially explaining his plight, which is no different than what Murakami went through. Mifune's reaction hold such power as he depicts Murakami's understanding that his choices made him a different man. Mifune when finally speaks is incredible because he does reveal sanctimony in verbalizing the different path, as there still is the sense of the shared suffering, yet now with the conviction that he was in the right. Again as much as this is accomplished portrayal of this man dealing with his shame from his current failure, and the demons of the past, he is also simply a great lead in this police procedural. Mifune is captivating to watch as he works the case in every respect in creating again that urgency, but also in every moment with Shimura the learning process as he sees the seasoned officer work. Mifune naturally builds towards the climax of the film which is amazing scene for him as he represents the strength of Murakami coming into his own as a detective yet also the direct underlying fear of the danger in the moment, but with emotional intensity of man knowing he is truly fighting for a just cause. I've said before, but it's always worth saying, and I hope to have the pleasure of saying it again, which is this is a great performance by Toshiro Mifune. It's a turn that reveals just how effortless yet remarkable his collaboration with Kurosawa was as well as his ability to not only giving a mesmerizing performance to watch, but also one that wholly captures the complexities of his character.