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Last Samurai Review Essay

« The last samurai » is a compelling story of warfare, duty, and honour. It opens up in 1876 San Francisco; Tom Cruise plays the role of Nathan Algren, a former Captain whose participation to the military campaigns against the native Indians has left him scared with nightmares and remorse leaving alcohol as his only remedy. After being fired from the Winchester rifle company, he is recruited by Omura (Masato Harada) adviser of a weak-willed emperor, along with his former commanding officer whom he utmostly despises, Colonel Bagley (Tony Goldwyn) to train a conscript army to suppress the Samurai rebellion, who seem to threat the “modernization” of Japan. He once again finds himself having to wipe yet other tribal rebels. Algren is then captured by the forces of the legendary Kasumoto (Ken Watanabe) when he comes to realise he seems to have a spiritual affinity to them, soon adopting the Bushido code (The way of the warrior) and ends up fighting along side with them against his former troupes.

As Algren spends his time in captivity, observing the people, watching them devote themselves to what they do, he starts to stop drinking and to shape up, and starts to be in harmony with himself after long years of self-loathing and remorse. He is eventually taught how to wield a sword like a true samurai, along with the Bushido code. Algren receives Yoda-like wisdom from Katsumoto “ may the strength of the samurai be with you always” As time goes by, he starts to learn the Japanese language and is no longer seen as an enemy, when Katsumoto returns Algren’s personal belongings; he says “When I took these, you were my enemy…” Algren is later faced with the difficult choice of going back to America, or staying to fight along side Katsumoto and face an almost certain death which he ends up choosing. He then along side the samurai go off to a last final battle as ‘savages with bows and arrows’ against the new western Japan with new riffles and notably the Howitzers. This vividly recalls the guerrilla techniques of ‘Braveheart’

The Director Edward Zwick overcomes the problem of the language barrier ingeniously by having Katsumoto be a student of English preventing the movie from always being subtitled. Zick manages in an effective way in bridging the gap between today and the 1870 with great success. Edward Zwick may be one of the most underrated filmmakers within Hollywood. “The last samurai” is amazing to look at, with astonishingly beautiful landscape and scenery. The battle sequences in particular are very effective well captured, the editor (Steven Rosenblum) does not employ too many cuts making it clear and therefore much stronger. Hans Zimmer (Music composer) does an excellent job with the music enhancing the mood without it becoming too unbearable.

If there was something to reproach to “the last samurai” it would be that the story is not of the most orginal, resembling strongly to Edward Zwicks fromer movie Glory, and Mel Gibson’s Braveheart, but “The last samurai’ is never the less a rousing tale that combines adventure with emotional effectiveness and differentiates itself from other movies with the astonishing good acting of both Tom Cruise and Ken Watanabe.

Tom cruise has never shown such emotional depth, he is so fercociously present as a character. Every emotion, even every thought can be read across his face. He truly gives life to Algren, he truly looks genuinely stricken by his past, haunted even. Although Tom Cruise is “The Last Samurai” undeniable star and main character, Ken Watanabe’s performance is even more memorable, persuasive, and above all breathtaking. Watanabe channels Mifune so forcefully that’s its hard, even impossible seeing anyone else then him to do a better job as Katsumoto.

He brings out everything we could expect from a great leader: strength, courage, patience, the ability to dominate a fight, and most importantly, honour. Watanabe’s work dominates and outstands Cruise’s. The beautiful, graceful and discreet Taka (played by Koyoki) plays the husband of one if the man Cruise kills and eventually have the love of Cruise and vice versa. The strong Ujio (Hiroyuki Sanada) is a fierce warrior who objects to Katsumoto’s will of keeping Algren alive. Simon Graham (Timothy Spall) is a British photojournalist who speaks somewhat Japanese. Finally Colonel Bagley ( Tony Goldwyn) who also fits his role like a T.

“The last samurai” is a movie you can watch from two important aspects; the story, or People can choose to look at “The last Samurai” from two different aspects

You can watch “the last samurai” in two different ways. Either you can choose to ignore the messages or the story’s true meaning, concentrating only on the small imperfections, or you can choose to watch the movie’s story depth, admire the gorgeous landscape and scenery, the breathtaking characters, thrilling battles, and the beautiful moral values through the sacrifice of Samurai’s for “what seems to have become a forgotten word: Honour”. “The last Samurai” reminds us all of what true honour devotion and duty truly are through a truly inspiring movie.


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