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
When Katsumoto and Algren are having a discussion about Algren's military rank while inside the temple, a small piece of debris on Katsumoto's right arm, just below his shoulder, disappears and reappears between shots. 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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Powerful, well-crafted epic set in 19th century Japan about a disillusioned American soldier who's hired to train a group of fledgling soldiers and lead them into battle against a rebellious samurai. Having been defeated and held captive by the enemy, he gradually begins to understand and develop a great respect for the man who should be his adversary. Long, but faultlessly performed and richly detailed with compelling battle scenes and vivid, breathtaking scenery. Cruise—sporting authentic Japanese tongue—is outstanding, but Watanabe steals the film in a moving and forceful performance as the fierce but honorable samurai warrior. Only letdown is the finale, which seems a bit too conventional, but it's still a remarkable tale of life, honor, and courage. ***½
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