on 9 December 2004
I am at a loss to understand the reviewer from Kyoto as I saw this film with my Japanese girlfriend and she loved it. So much so that I had to buy a copy of it for her. Also most of our Japanese friends who have seen it really liked it too. So to tell people not to bother watching it, especially after they have only watched 15 minutes of the film, is ridiculous. Watch any film and form your own opinion, if you like it then fine, if you don't then that's fine too, at least you know. But please don't force your opinions on others.
From my perspective the film was great, I really enjoyed it. I am an uninformed person from a Japanese historical point of view and consequently the treatment of the Samurai is not my forte. But from my experience history research usually explodes any utopian image we have of ourselves or our native history, so perhaps there is some element of truth in this saga ... perhaps not. But that is artistic licence for you, it deviates! Sure there are a couple of corny bits, but they cannot spoil some excellent performances, especially the talented Timothy Spall and a nice cameo from the equally talented Billy Connolly. Tom Cruise plays at his best and Ken Watanabe is great. It has some terrific fight scenes without going over the top and I think it shows how strong honour and tradition is in the Japanese culture.
All in all and excellent film from my perspective, so give it a try and if you don't like it, well there will always be another film that you will enjoy more.
The story is told by reporter/photographer 'Simon Graham' (Timothy Spail) from 'Nathan Algren's' diary -
Sickened by the deeds he was a part of 'Nathan Algren' (Tom Cruise) works at a fairground promoting the sale
of the Winchester Rifle.
He drinks far too much, frequently seeing images of the Indians he'd attacked with the 7th Calvary slaughtered
After a performance 'Zebulon Gant' (Billy Connolly) meets him outside the grounds with an invitation to listen
to a proposition made by a former commander 'Colonel Bagley' (Tony Goldwyn) and a Japanese official.
'Nathan' is asked with an offer of a substantial reward to train up the Japanese Emperor's newly formed army.
For Centuries the Samurai have protected the Emperor but times are changing in Japan, though the Samurai
believe change to be coming too quickly, they are a proud people and will resist, in effect becoming the enemy.
Training the green-horn army will not be an easy task, most had never seen never mind handled a gun before.
Well before the army are ready to fight they are ordered to seek out the Samurai warriors who had sabotaged
the building of the new rail-road.
'Colonel Bagley' despite being told by 'Nathan' how unprepared they are orders them to face the fearsome
'Zebulon' though told by 'Nathan' to withdraw insists on standing his ground, those that did not run from the
charging Samurai including 'Zebulon' die, only 'Nathan' who fought with great honour survives.
He is taken to the Samurai village where injured he is brought back to heath by leader 'Katsumoto's' (Ken Watanabe)
sister 'Taka' (Koyuki) who's husband 'Nathan' had killed during the battle.
'Katsumoto' wants to know more about 'Nathan's' history as a soldier in America and learn of the new Japanese army
he will one day face.e
They have many conversations if but at first short....
Gradually 'Nathan' learns to admire and respect his captors and indeed becomes eager to learn their skills, eventually
he will also earn their respect.
There also becomes an evident attaction between 'Nathan' and 'Taka'
He will become one with the Samurai and will one day fight a glorious battle by their side.
Surely one of 'Tom Cruise's' finest performances in what i myself consider to be a 'Classic'
A superb film that includes a very well staged battle sequence......well worth a revisit or indeed a first viewing.
Commentary by Director Edward Zwick
Edward Zwick - Director's Video Journal
THE HISTORY CHANNEL - Documentary - History vs Hollywod
Making an Epic - A conversation with Edward Zwick and Tom Cruise
A World of Detail - Production Design with Lily Kilvert
Silk and Armour - Costume Design with Ngila Dickson
From Soldier to Samurai - The Weapons
Imperial Army Basic-Training
on 9 February 2004
Wow. This film absolutely blew me away. Surprisingly enough, I am not a great fan of Tom Cruise's work, so I was astounded by his acting in this film. It just goes to show what a brilliant script like this one can do for an actor. Cruise plays Algren, an American who goes from arrogant soldier to honorable samurai during a mission to eradicate the threat posed by said samurai. Whilst with the samurai, Algren learns their way of life.
As well as the undertones of honour and duty, this film is bursting with wisdom and beauty. The cinematography is excellent, and some shots in the film (ie the silhouetted Algren against a gorgeous Japanese sunset) are simply breathtaking.
The soundtrack provided by musical legend Hans Zimmer is spectacular, a true reflection of both mediation and warrior. The song 'Red Warrior' is just sheer brilliance, combining soulful Japanese flute, with strong emotive strings, as well as the spine tingling battle cries provided by Benjamin Hale.
Ken Watanabe also provides a wonderful contrast to Cruise as Katsumoto, the leader of the last samurai tribe. His wisdom and grace are portrayed beautifully, and there is no doubt in my mind that he should win an award for his role.
There must be something wrong witht this film, I hear you cry. Well, to put it bluntly, there's not. The battle scenes are simply breathtaking, the acting wonderful, the soundtrack fitting and the story beautiful in a dramatic way.
An astounding piece of cinematic genius. A must see for everyone.
on 17 January 2005
I thoroughly enjoyed this film and rate it amongst some of the very best I have seen in the last couple of years.
Although one could claim the plot line is a bit formulaic, it's a formula that definitely works and the superb acting that brings the story to life is pure enjoyment. Cruise is outstanding but it is maybe with the top notch supporting cast that really makes this film stand out. Ken Watanabe is on top form making his character take you through a whole ride of emotions but best of all for me was the surprise appearance of both Billy Connolly and Timothy Spall, two of the finest ever British character actors.
Apart from that the locations are beautiful, the action scenes gripping and the storyline delicate but thrilling and told with a great deal of sensitivity.
If you missed this at the cinema, buy the DVD. You won't regret it.
on 16 November 2012
I have to confess at the beginning that I cannot stand Tom Cruise. This is my one exception, and I think it is because for once the film is bigger than Cruise. Telling a story around the time that Japan was moving itself into the modern world, it is in reality a fairly cliched story about a foreigner finding himself falling for a vanishing way of life in an alien country. It bears remarkable similarities to one's about incomers finding a home with native Americans.
Having said all that, the film is beautifully directed and acted by just about everyone, and the pace is perfect for the story. The action is well handled, and complete lack of mutual understanding between the old and the new handled sensitively.
There is an obvious inevitability about the ending, but that makes it no less haunting. It will remain in your head for sometime afterwards.
on 3 December 2004
I went and saw this film twice at the cinema. Knowing that Tom Cruise was in it I expected something like Mission Impossible acting from him. Watching the film, it is truely breath-taking. Cruise's performance is the best I have seen so far from him, the storyline is deep, the action scene's are well choreographed and do not have the American Hollywood to them. I own this film now on DVD and must say that whilst it is long, it is a really good film. The film covers Nathan Algren (Cruise) as a Captain of the American forces, going into a controversial battle and being captured by the Samurai. Cruise during the film keeps a diary which gives you an insight into his character and the things he is finding out. Katsumoto (Ken Wantanabe) plays the lead Samurai, and instead of having Algren's head cut off, tries to learn about his enemy. Algren, ends up joining the Samurai and fighting with them.
This film is truely awe-inspiring, it offers a glimpse into Ancient Far eastern history and shows Cruise in probably his best role yet. I would highly recommend this film to anyone.
on 29 March 2004
I watched many films in last few years, and I must admit very few movies left me breathless like The Last Samurai. There are very few movies about Japanese history in last decade and more, so this movie is really refreshing. Excellent story and action, it deserved some Oscar (atleast Ken Watanabe deserved it). It is not maybe good as serie "Shogun", Akira Kurosawa's "Ran" or "Kagemusha" ,but still presents nice view of samurai and their life). Although it not presents true events in 1876 in Japan it is close to it. By the way, maybe movie than wont be interesting if director followed real history. Tom Cruise and Ken Watanbe really keep movie in the rhytm all the way. If you want story about honour and glory, love and friendship this is movie for you.
Best movie of 2003!
on 7 March 2004
It seems that Hollywood (being quite obviously American) has kept its distance from high budjet films about Japanese culture over the years. Lets face it they have their reasons and don't forget that the old Japanese culture is quite alien to the average Westerner.
With The Last Samurai, the mainstream film makers have finally found a way of producing a quality film which demonstrates quite accurately the attitudes of the Japanese ruling factions of the time. Quite naturally, Hollywood create films to make money and The Last Samurai is no exception. However, as with other similar semi-historic films (e.g. Gladiator) it has been constructed with a care to detail and has embodied within its foundations the very attributes it wants to portrey, namely honour, compassion and indomitable spirit.
As a student of Japanese and Okinawan martial arts, including sword arts, I was pleased to see the accurate depiction of how a katana (Japanese longsword) is used in battle. I was deeply impressed with the efforts of all the actors to accurately use all the weaponry with such dedication. Cruise especially, worked very hard to learn to use the sword, as well as all the other work he put in.
One scene especially caught my eye, where Cruise is attacked in the street by a group of sword bearing attackers. Having spent several long months converting his fighting skills to that of the Japanese style (quite feasable for the dedicated warrior, even in such a short time) he is able to defeat his attackers. The reality of the use of the sword in the Japanese style, is that every second, one is half an inch from death. This was demonstrated with great film making skill.
This film is unmistakably American, but is made with sensitivity and respect for all concerned. Based loosly on the Satsuma uprising of 1986/7, The Last Samurai uses typical poetic licence in changing the facts, but that doesn't really matter. Whether the protaganists were the Americans, or (in reality) the French, the story is primarily about the strength of character of the Japanese warrior and the code of honour which trancends race and is relevent to true warriors of all races. This is a truly memorable film.
on 23 October 2005
It is not often if ever that i give something 5/5 but this film fully deserves it. The charachters are developed incredibly well during the film and as most people point out it is more than just an action film but more a story which you get swept into with such ease and is a credit to the director Zwick and script writer Logan.
The casting couldn't be better with the ever humorous Billy Connolly fitting in seemlesly. The fact that the only oscar nomination the film had was for best photography is something of a surprise and uncalled for let down. My first reaction when i came out of the cinema was WOW, that was 10x better than LOTR. There isn't one point in the film where you wonder how much longer it will go on for or how they have spoilt it by doing this or that.
One under-rated feature of this movie is the visual effects with well used slow-motion to let the whole feel of the film sink in even more and depict the scene with detail which would be lost otherwise. But like so many movies these days it luckily isn't spoilt with tonnes of special effects and for the most part is left to the traditional film making.
It is a moving epic tale which is by far the best movie i have ever seen and will remain so i suspect. I cannot do this justice but i can strongly advise you to invest in this esquite piece of movie.
Best actor: It is a very close call between Cruise and Watanabe but Tom Cruise just edges it in very possibly his best film and performance.
on 17 June 2012
There are a select number of films released that define the meaning of the word epic and The Last Samurai is one of those films. Tom Cruise portrays a troubled soldier who, after years drinking away the sights of battle, is asked to train any army who will march against the rising rebellion, led by the Samurai who want to stall the modernising of Japan. As he proves in films such as Minority Report, War of the Worlds and Collateral, Cruise is a brilliant actor, both in terms of action and emotion. Fellow cast members, including Timothy Spall, a brief Billy Connelly and an excellent Ken Watanabe all bring truth and talent to their roles.
Edward Zwick (Blood Diamond) directs and does a perfect job of it, having an eye for sweeping, epic shots of the breathtaking landscapes, for the gritty, violent action and battle sequences and the emotive scenes. The script is brilliantly written and Cruise is given plenty of material with which to test his skills and prove them. The score, by Hans Zimmer (Pirates of the Caribbean) is epic, stirring and moving and compliments the epic scale of the film. The battles are awesomely done, with Zwick not holding back on the violence and delivering some breath snatching, gripping moments, as well as some excellent sword fights. The cinematography is among the best i have seen, the landscapes are brought vividly to the screen and the japanse architecture and countryside make this film all the more engrossing.
Overall, this film is one of my favourites, it is epic and sweeping, gripping and action packed and its impossible not to be swept up in this film. A flawless, majestic film.
The single disc edition is the best choice for those not bothered with extras but for fans of the film the two disc edition is loaded with special features: commentaries, numerous featurettes, interviews and deleted scenes.