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The Last Samurai (2003)

R  |   |  Action, Drama, History  |  5 December 2003 (USA)
7.7
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Ratings: 7.7/10 from 280,163 users   Metascore: 55/100
Reviews: 918 user | 187 critic | 44 from Metacritic.com

An American military advisor embraces the Samurai culture he was hired to destroy after he is captured in battle.

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Nominated for 4 Oscars. Another 20 wins & 45 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
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Ray Godshall Sr. ...
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Shichinosuke Nakamura ...
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Satoshi Nikaido ...
Shintaro Wada ...
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Storyline

In the 1870s, Captain Nathan Algren, a cynical veteran of the American Civil war who will work for anyone, is hired by Americans who want lucrative contracts with the Emperor of Japan to train the peasant conscripts for the first standing imperial army in modern warfare using firearms. The imperial Omura cabinet's first priority is to repress a rebellion of traditionalist Samurai -hereditary warriors- who remain devoted to the sacred dynasty but reject the Westernizing policy and even refuse firearms. Yet when his ill-prepared superior force sets out too soon, their panic allows the sword-wielding samurai to crush them. Badly wounded Algren's courageous stand makes the samurai leader Katsumoto spare his life; once nursed to health he learns to know and respect the old Japanese way, and participates as advisor in Katsumoto's failed attempt to save the Bushido tradition, but Omura gets repressive laws enacted- he must now choose to honor his loyalty to one of the embittered sides when ... Written by KGF Vissers

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

In the face of an enemy, in the Heart of One Man, Lies the Soul of a Warrior.

Genres:

Action | Drama | History | War

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for strong violence and battle sequences | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Official Sites:

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Country:

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Language:

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Release Date:

5 December 2003 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Samurai  »

Filming Locations:

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Box Office

Budget:

$140,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$136,898 (Finland) (30 January 2004)

Gross:

$111,110,575 (USA) (2 April 2004)
 »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

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Color:

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

First feature to use the new Kodak Vision2 500T 5218 film stock - the successor of the previous Vision 500T 5279. However, it was released later than Seabiscuit (2003) which uses the same film stock but at a later date. See more »

Goofs

At the beginning of the film, the narrator says a "sword" was dipped into the sea and the four islands of Japan were formed. This is factually incorrect; it was actually a jewelled spear, called Ame no nuhoko and is detailed in the Kojiki, the book of the Shinto faith. See more »

Quotes

Simon Graham: [first lines]
Simon Graham: [narrating] They say Japan was made by a sword. They say the old gods dipped a coral blade into the ocean, and when they pulled it out four perfect drops fell back into the sea, and those drops became the islands of Japan. I say, Japan was made by a handful of brave men. Warriors, willing to give their lives for what seems to have become a forgotten word: honor.
See more »

Crazy Credits

The opening Warner Bros. logo is light blue on a solid black background. See more »

Connections

Referenced in Who Wants to Be a Millionaire: Episode #7.141 (2009) See more »

Soundtracks

Kagura-No-Netori
Performed by Tokyo Gakuso
Courtesy of Columbia Music Entertainment, Inc.
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Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

 
Brilliant!
4 December 2003 | by See all my reviews

I was skeptical about this movie because not every high-budget feature with Tom Cruise is guaranteed depth or serious acclaim, although it may gather at the box office. And Warner Bros put 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 movie truly and unequivocally remarkable and cannot contain 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 whole time. The action, sets, scenery and story - 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 movie have excellent acting across the board, but all the Japanese actors were outstanding, and the Americans and Europeans were excellent ... Tom Cruise was at the top of his game. His Independence Day angst combined with his moral nobility in A Few Good Men 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 few cliché story 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 way that neither culture was violated - and above all the `chemistry' was discreet in Japanese fashion, taking a necessary backseat without overshadowing the main story line, actually adding richness to the process of "going native" for Captain Algren (Cruise). The subplot went far beyond an added market draw. Very tasteful and artful scriptwriting, with many colorful, developing characters.

The thrust of the film was the Western-Japanese cultural divide, differing concepts of value and valor and the political issues 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 other films fell short (and The Statement was an abomination], this film succeeded brilliantly. The differences between the two cultures were considered and portrayed without completely 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 simple scapegoat or cultural domination message. The American Civil War captain, Nathan Algren (Cruise) goes abroad as not only a war hero but also a cross-cultural and linguistic expert. Being in Japan, (at first as a mercenary hired to train Japanese in Western ways of war), he takes on the study of the people and their language. Although Algren's sometimes superhero abilities are a bit of a stretch at times, taking the native language seriously is unique in American filmmaking (and American culture, hence our lowly reputation when traveling). Usually the American walks into the foreign scene and the pic automatically shifts to all-English. I was truly grateful to find the dialog half in subtitles because half the characters were Japanese - and Algren was speaking with them. Secondly, this movie honors both cultures for their recognized strengths, even in their distinctiveness. For example, when the woman who is hosting Algren (in captivity) makes dinner, he helps her. "Japanese men don't do these things," she tells him. "But I'm not Japanese," he says (in Japanese). Algren is not ashamed to uphold his homeland customs (although this was 1876... pre-sensitive 90s man era, long before women's lib let alone men entering kitchens) when his own cultural customs or inclinations are ways of caring rather than domination. Another and more important 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 other ways, the Japanese Samurai (especially Katsumoto, Watanabe's character) and Algren learn to appreciate each other's ways. In many respects, the film moves past the usual PC party line [of Dances with Wolves, Seven Years in Tibet and most others of similar 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 another without money 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 film had depth and substance with brilliant work in almost every area 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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