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
Contrary to a popular misconception, the title of the film does not refer to Nathan Algren, or even Katsumoto, as the Last Samurai. The word "Samurai" here is in its plural form and is actually referring to Katsumoto's clan as a whole. See more »
At the final battle Algren tells Katsomoto about the battle at Thermopylae, and says that 300 brave Greeks held off an army of 1 million Persians. This is only partially true; there were 300 Spartans, but the Persian invasion force is believed to have had 150,000 soldiers. Of course, stories from ancient times describe the brave Spartans as heroes who stood up against 1 million Persians, and at the time of the movie it might still have been thought so. In addition, while the 300 were killed by the Persians (as they knew would happen), their stand inspired the Greek states to rally against, go to war versus, and eventually prevent an attempted Persian conquest of Europe. It's not unreasonable for Algren to describe the Spartan stand as a victory, not least because of the parallels between what happened at Thermopylae and the samurai's willingness to die in service of the Emperor - along with the fact that Katsumoto's stand does result in posthumous victories (the American treaty is rejected and the Emperor angrily confiscates Omura's entire fortune). See more »
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.
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The opening Warner Bros. logo is light blue on a solid black background. See more »
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 best 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 show with his mesmerizing and poignant portrayal of Katsumoto, the leader of the last clan of Samurai. His screen presence and delivery is truly amazing 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 powerful 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.
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