"It's 1876. Captain Nathan Algren (Tom Cruise) has been sent to Japan in order to help the Imperial Japanese Army become more 'modern' and less 'traditional' and ultimately prepare them to fight the legendary Samurai. Events occur that cause Tom Cruise to be a captive of the deadly but extremely polite Katsumoto (Ken Watanabe) who is the leader of the Japanese Samurai. At this point, the viewer begins to learn why the Samurai are fighting to preserve their way of life against Western influences and Cruise's character becomes emotionally bound to them and he integrates himself into their society after working hard to earn their trust. However, the film is not solely about the struggle for the Samurai to keep their way of life, another subplot includes the low key and shy love relationship between Algren and Taka, a quiet widow (played with subtlety by Koyuki). Though it isn't a big part in the film, it highlights the emotional aspect of the film and shows that this is not a film about swords. Positive Points:
In my view, Cruise has been a decent actor with fluctuating performances but in this current effort, he has shown that he is improving and learning how to adapt to different styles of acting. He plays the tormented captain with surprising intelligence and conviction. I was very impressed to see him speaking Japanese - I loved the way this film mixed both English and Japanese toghether because it gave it a strong edge. However, The real star of this film is Ken Watanabe (Tom who?). He played Katsumoto with such a commanding and intense presence that it was hard to concentrate on Cruise or any other actor in the film. Without doubt deserves the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. Special mention should go to Koyuki and Ujio (played by Hiroyuki Sanada). As supporting roles, they both acted convincingly without saying much but succeeded in showing that there are many more interesting characters besides Algren and Katsumoto. Great music score by Hans Zimmer and fantastic costume design that will not doubt trigger a trend in Samurai-influenced clothes. Negative points: While the film was entertaining, it focused too much on Cruise. The supporting characters were great too and people like Taka and Ujio should have had more developed personalities. What is Billy Connolly doing in this film? A Scottish man impersonating an Irish man? You didn't fool me Braveheart! But negativities cast aside, 'The Last Samurai' is an enjoyable, violent but immersing cinematic effort that shouldn't be missed if you are interested in Japan, a Cruise fan or if you just love historical dramas."
Ayako Doue | Colorado and Japan | 12/11/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"As a Japanese living in the United Staes, I can say totally, that this film is amazing. There're some critics says Tom Cruise's acting and so on, however, this film sucessfully depicts the history of Japan, and people's traditional lives and the end of samurai era. This is a spectacular movie with sweeping sword actions and it is based on the true history events in japan, I've seen a lot of samurai movies(made in japan for japanese) but i can say this one is GREAT as the other movies, plus this is not usual hollywood movies that awfully depicts samurais and even Yakuzas and brush off the truth. I can say, however, without Tom Cruise, this movie could have also been great as well. But i would guess that it is because of him, this movie gained more attention among people and so typical americans can get the idea of what samurai really is and what they really think. so overall i gave this movie 5 stars. I plan to go watch it again."
The last samurai
Rodrigo Llamozas | the last cubicle at the end of the hall... | 02/03/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This film has been compared (a lot) to Dances with Wolves due to the fact that they both share similar themes. A Civil War era soldier who finds himself thrown in the middle of a different culture and ends up embracing it and becoming part of it. However, Edward Zwick's film differs from the Kevin Costner Oscar winner in that the principal character, Lt. Nathan Algren (Cruise) is down on his luck, having become a drunken caricature of his former self, deeply regretful of his actions, who accepts a job as an instructor for an incipient Japanese army that needs to be prepared to fight against the Samurai. As he arrives to Tokyo he starts training a useless bunch of would-be soldiers who are sent to fight even if they're not ready for it. As a result, the newly formed army gets butchered by the battle experienced Samurai. During that battle, Algren fights bravely and kills one of the highest ranking warriors, getting the interest of the famed Katsumoto, the last great Samurai leader, who orders him captured and brought to his son's village as a prisoner. Once there, Algren's life is changed forever as he gets to know the real lifestyle of the Samurai and their people. They turn out not to be the savages that the Japanese government makes them out to be. After spending winter with them, Algren "changes sides" and joins the Samurai in fighting the Emperor's army. The title of the movie tells the final outcome. The Samurai lose the battle. Progress triumphs over tradition. New over old. But Algren's past demons are redeemed by his courageous actions helping the Samurai. The true worth of this movie is its look. You can definetely see where the budget went (other than Cruise's salary). A whole village was built and the attention to detail is astonishing. The costumes are simply amazing, especially the battle armors. The costume designer is Ngila Dickson, who also worked in Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Also of notice are the battle scenes, which are breathtaking. Very violent, but not gratuitous, they serve the story very well. As for the acting, Cruise does a fine job, and is slowly but consistently becoming a better actor (even if this particular performance was not nominated for an Academy Award), but the movie belongs to Ken Watanabe (who was indeed nominated) as Katsumoto. His presence demands attention. He is the center of every scene he's in. Koyuki's performance as Taka, Katsumoto's sister and Algren's love interest, should also be noticed."
Not Kurosawa, But Still Engaging Story of the Lost Ideal
Tsuyoshi | Kyoto, Japan | 12/27/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"First of all, if you want to see the real samurai in film, see Kurosawa. He is, and will be, the definite master of the genre (or any genre of film) and "The Last Samurai" does not change his undisputed status. Still Tom Cruise's new film has several merits of its own, and to watch the fictional Japan with great Japanese cast is worth a look. Disillusioned and alcoholic American officer, Tom Cruise's Nathan Algren, is hired to train the Japanese army. The time is in the 1870s, when Japan's new government is struggling to establish its rule over the country, and rebellious "samurai" (techinically there were no samurai at that time, though) are unstable elements in the new-born nation.After the bloody battle, Nathan is captured alive by the leader of rebel samurai Katsumoto (brilliant Ken Watanabe). Katsumoto keeps the wounded American within his village, knowing that the coming severe winter will shut down any access from outside. Moreover, Katsumoto says, he wants to "see his enemy."After the sagging middle part, while the film portrays the gradual understanding between Katsumoto and Algren, it gives occasional actions using Japanese swords (including those of ninjas which tells that Hollywood still do not understand). Wait to see when it finally leads to the big action scene, of which very authentic and dynamic power is undeniable, even though it is still tainted by Hollywood ending. All Japanese audiences know (and grieve to see) that the Japanese soldiers would not "kneel" that way on the battlefield.If anything should be recommeded, that is its production designs and Watanabe's acting. The sets of Japanese village and Japanese town (of Yokohama 130 years ago) are literally perfect. (Think about they were mostly bulit in the field of New Zealand or the backlot of Hollywood studio.) Being myself a Japanese who experienced many sad cases of misunderstandings of Western films, I can testify that there are no strange things coming from so-called "Orientalism." Surely they did homework.And Ken Watanabe. Watanabe's samurai is far better and rounded than Tom Cruise's rather (cliched - ?) American. In fact, Cruise is good, but his performance is clearly enhanced by Watanabe's much subtler and more charismatic acting. In him you will be looking at a new Yul Brynner of "The King and I," with his dignity and slight touch of humor this late great actor so easily had shown. And many Japanese audiences know that Watanabe once suffered from leukemia, and this fact might have lent his convincing portrait of "The Last Samurai" a solemn tone.To be frank, Edward Zwick's idea about "Bushi-do" or ways of samurai looks too "Westernized" to us. The film shows the armoured samurai riding the horse, but actually, this battle style had already been out-of-date around this era. Any Japanese know that before the Meiji era (which the film depicts), we had a very long peaceful time that lasted about 250 years, and during the period the samurai underwent many changes. And though Katsumoto insists on using swords, the fact is samurai used early-style rifes back in the late 16th century. The film is engaging, but just do not take the film as the historical facts about samurai.Incidentally, there is a book called "The Last Samurai" by Mark Ravina about a real-life, well-known historical figure Takamori Saigo, whose life is one of the possible inspiration of Katsumoto."
Very moved and remind me somethig inportant thing
Tsuyoshi | 12/12/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I am Japanease and live in Japan.
At first time,Tom Cruise decided to make Samurai movie,most of Japanese must be suspicious about it.
Because all hollywood movie about Japan and Japanese were really strange for us.
I always disappointed and felt didn't want to watch to the end.But this movie was really great.
I can't belive this movie was made by another country except Japan.
It must be very difficult job and They did it.
Most of Japanese don't understand "samurai"spirit in these days.
And this movie was so fresh and felt like re-educated.One of Japanese,I would like to say thank you to "The Last Samurai""