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The Last Samurai 2003
Description: Nathan Algren is an American hired to instruct the Japanese units in the methods of modern warfare, which finds him learning to respect the samurai and the honorable principles that rule them. Pressed to destroy the samurai's method of life in the name of modernization and launch trade, Algren decides to become an ultimate fighter himself and to war for their right to exist.
Released: 05 Dec 2003 Director: Edward Zwick Writers: John Logan (story), John Logan (screenplay), Edward Zwick (screenplay), Marshall Herskovitz (screenplay) Actors: Ken Watanabe, Tom Cruise, William Atherton, Chad Lindberg Genres: Action, Drama, War
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The Last Samurai Reviews:

After my third viewing, I can finally admit that this movie has me. I enjoyed it during its theatrical run, enjoyed it more the second time around, and now, I can only tell that I love it. The cast is exemplary. Tom Cruise is so nice in this movie that it is very often simple to forget he is Tom Cruise. Easy his most strong role and greatest performance since Jerry Maguire. Ken Watanabe, however, is wonderful in each stage - acting with a rare sensitivity and intensity and breathing life into a hero much larger and more human than the grand storyline of which he is a part. Though the whole cast is excellent, I feel that I gotta also single out Koyuki and Shichinosuke Nakamura for, respectively, the female lead and the emperor, for the subtle strength and believability they every give their very challenging roles.The storyline takes zone during the early modernization of Japan, in the 1870s and 1880s. The Emperor's power has been weakened by the political and economic power of his cabinet, by his young age, and by the political influence of the United States and another western powers pulling the strings of his cabinet and supplying modern weaponry and strategies to the modernizing Japanese army. Cruise plays Captain Allgren, an alcoholic veteran who has seen and participated in too many massacres of innocent people, and is offered an occasion to reclaim some of his honor by supporting to train the Japanese military in the test of firearms. When he arrives in Japan, we learn that the first use of the Japanese units and its fresh weapons will be vs a rebellious group of samurai who trust themselves to be in the service of the Emperor and Japan, but resist the Emperor's cabinet and the influence of western nations. In the power void left by a passive emperor, Japan seems poised to enter into a civil fight vs its own values, faith and honor. During the first attack on the Samurai, Allgren is captured by the Samurai and starts a spiritual, physical and philosophical adventure which will bring him a lvl of self-respect his own culture should never supply.My interpretation of this adventure is that Allgren has found a zone and folks that offer him redemption, where, in his own world, he can search none. But Allgren's is only a tiny part of the storyline - which ultimately revolves around what is right for Japan, for the subjectivity of a entire nation, and how to portray such a topics from its own perspective. Traditional Japan is treated with empathy here, not aggrandizing exaggeration, as some of the film's critics seem to suggest. This is not a movie about what is objectively right and wrong, but a movie about struggling to understand and empower tradition as a means to control and benefit from change. I search no grand moral statement here, but rather an intense, sympathetic, human drama with a powerful sense of honor and sacrifice.Edward Zwick has made a movie which operates well at each level, carrying easy but profound philosophical ideas, but avoiding the mistake of making these concepts and the characters that express them super-heroic. Ultimately, this beautifully shot movie conveys strong messages about war, tradition, ethics, honor and culture, which, though not particularly original, are sensitively and intelligently brought forward. There is a lot of action, including some remarkably well-acted sword fighting and martial artistry, but none of it seems unnecessary and the entire movie is truly tightly woven. My highest recommendation.


The Last Samurai is a brilliantly crafted aesthetic pleasure, studded with supernal performances from Ken Watanabe and Tom Cruise. In fact, Tom Cruise unarguably gives his greatest ever performance, surpassing his portrayal of Jerry Maguire in the eponymous flick. His plaintive portrayal of Nathan Algren, not only evokes pathos but also seeks sympathy of the contemporary viewer, who can vicariously relate to Algren's disconcertion, owing to his inner conflicts of patriotism vis-à-vis humanity.However, it is Ken Watanabe, who steals the present with his mesmerizing and poignant portrayal of Katsumoto, the leader of the last guild of Samurai. His screen presence and delivery is truly nice and even outshines that of Tom Cruise, which is a compliment in itself. The scenes between Watanabe and Cruise are pure gold, depicting fluctuating feelings of hostility, compassion and camaraderie. Watanabe's intense and strong performance in which he displays a wide range of emotions, is definitely worthy of the coveted statuette, but the academy never fails to disappoint. Watanabe's brilliant portrayal, not only mesmerizes the viewers, but also convinces the critics of his acting abilities. The tacit adoration between Algren and Taka (subtly played by Koyuki), enormously adds to the beauty of the movie. All this coupled with some brilliant cinematography and a mesmerizing score, makes it a treat to watch and a truly surreal experience.http://www.apotpourriofvestiges.com/


I was skeptical about this film because not each high-budget detail with Tom Cruise is guaranteed depth or serious acclaim, although it may gather at the box office. And Warner Bros place me through TORTURE to see this pic - changes of times AND locations, over and over. I felt like was on an survival test, an unbearably annoying treasure hunt over weeks and was frankly ready to give it a negative review (which I'm writing on behalf of a publication). However, I found the film truly and unequivocally remarkable and cannot include my review in 350 words.First, the experience was powerful. Edward Zwick was a masterful director. I was on the edge of my seat the entire time. The action, sets, scenery and storyline - even the dialogue - were riveting. Clearly, a ton of historical and cultural research and care went into the script, sets, costumes, casting. They didn't just Hollywoodize Kurosowa's "Seven Samurai" as a Tom Cruise vehicle. Nor was it Dances with Wolves or Seven Years in Tibet, two PC-preaching pics of yesteryear. It was a lot more like Braveheart meets Seven Samurai with elements of inculturation a bit reminiscent of Wolves and Seven Years.Rarely does a film have perfect acting across the board, but all the Japanese actors were outstanding, and the Americans and Europeans were perfect ... Tom Cruise was at the top of his game. His Independence Day angst combined with his moral nobility in A Several Nice Boys and The Firm. Ken Watanabe as co-star exemplifying bravery, wisdom and nobility was outstanding.In spite of this historical epic being "in vogue" at present, there were surprisingly several cliché storyline elements. Even the requisite (American-made movie) romance with Take (Koyuki in this role was wonderful) furthered the cross-cultural elements of the plot in such a method that neither culture was violated - and above all the `chemistry' was discreet in Japanese fashion, taking a important backseat without overshadowing the main storyline line, now adding richness to the process of "going native" for Captain Algren (Cruise). The subplot went far beyond an added store draw. Very tasteful and artful scriptwriting, with many colorful, developing characters. The thrust of the movie was the Western-Japanese cultural divide, differing ideas of value and valor and the political problems surrounding Japan's efforts to "Westernize." [cross-cultural studies have become a cinematic trend: Lost in Translation, Beyond Borders, The Missing, Japanese Story, etc.] Where most of the another movies fell short (and The Statement was an abomination], this movie succeeded brilliantly. The differences between the two cultures were considered and portrayed without fully bashing one (except in the political arena, but even there, the Japanese seemed to be inviting their own downfall, in many ways). There was no easy scapegoat or cultural domination message. The American Civil Fight captain, Nathan Algren (Cruise) goes abroad as not only a fight character but also a cross-cultural and linguistic expert. Being in Japan, (at first as a mercenary hired to train Japanese in Western methods of war), he takes on the study of the folks and their language. Although Algren's sometimes superhero abilities are a bit of a stretch at times, taking the native language seriously is special in American filmmaking (and American culture, hence our lowly reputation when traveling). Usually the American walks into the foreign stage and the pic automatically shifts to all-English. I was truly grateful to search the dialog half in subtitles because half the characters were Japanese - and Algren was speaking with them. Secondly, this film honors both cultures for their recognized strengths, even in their distinctiveness. For example, when the girl who is hosting Algren (in captivity) makes dinner, he supports her. "Japanese boys don't do these things," she says him. "But I'm not Japanese," he tells (in Japanese). Algren is not ashamed to uphold his homeland customs (although this was 1876... pre-sensitive 90s boy era, long before women's lib allow alone boys entering kitchens) when his own cultural customs or inclinations are methods of caring rather than domination. Other and more necessary example: Algren demonstrates American resilience and perseverance when he rises again repeatedly after defeat. This baffles the Japanese who are accustomed to falling on their swords in shame after defeat, for them a noble death. In these and many another ways, the Japanese Samurai (especially Katsumoto, Watanabe's character) and Algren learn to appreciate every other's ways. In many respects, the movie moves past the usual PC party line [of Dances with Wolves, Seven Years in Tibet and most others of related ilk out of Hollywood] and reflects on the beauty and dignity in the midst of difference between the two worlds, and how much they need to learn from one other without cash or domination as a motive. The dignity of the young Emperor Meiji finding his own cultural center, at the end, was especially moving. Overall, the movie had depth and substance with brilliant work in almost each zone of production and performance. The editing was marvelous - although it's long, there's no unnecessary material remaining. Not a moment of boredom. Props all around!



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