7.7/10
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The Last Samurai (2003)

Trailer
0:31 | Trailer
An American military advisor embraces the Samurai culture he was hired to destroy after he is captured in battle.

Director:

Edward Zwick

Writers:

John Logan (story), John Logan (screenplay) | 2 more credits »
Popularity
905 ( 106)
Nominated for 4 Oscars. Another 21 wins & 62 nominations. See more awards »

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Photos

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Ken Watanabe ... Katsumoto
Tom Cruise ... Nathan Algren
William Atherton ... Winchester Rep
Chad Lindberg ... Winchester Rep Assistant
Ray Godshall Sr. Ray Godshall Sr. ... Convention Hall Attendee
Billy Connolly ... Zebulon Gant
Tony Goldwyn ... Colonel Bagley
Masato Harada ... Omura
Masashi Odate ... Omura's Companion
John Koyama ... Omura's Bodyguard
Timothy Spall ... Simon Graham
Shichinosuke Nakamura ... Emperor Meiji
Togo Igawa ... General Hasegawa
Satoshi Nikaido Satoshi Nikaido ... N.C.O.
Shintaro Wada Shintaro Wada ... Young Recruit

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Storyline

In the 1870s, Captain Nathan Algren (Tom Cruise), 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 (Masato Harada) 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 (Ken Watanabe) 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... 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 | War

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

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

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The filming in Taranaki coincided with a summer of many days without rain, to the benefit of the film crew. Taranaki locals use the term Samurai Summer as reference for a summer with many clear days. See more »

Goofs

Nobutada's blood around his mouth disappears and then reappears while talking to his father before his death. 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.
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Crazy Credits

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


Soundtracks

Kagura-No-Netori
Performed by Tokyo Gakuso
Courtesy of Columbia Music Entertainment, Inc.
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User Reviews

An American in Japan
10 January 2004 | by Buddy-51See all my reviews

Set in 1870's Japan, `The Last Samurai' is most effective when it sticks to the harsh realities of its blood- soaked battle scenes and avoids the softening effects of its two-bit philosophizing.

Tom Cruise is stoic and stolid as Nathan Algren, a former captain of the United States army who is having trouble coming to grips with the part he played in slaughtering a village of innocent American Indians. Now drifting aimlessly through life, Algren disinterestedly agrees to go to Japan to help train its military in the ways of modern warfare so that the nation's leaders can take on and destroy the sole remnants of the samurai forces who are still using swords as weapons. Once he is captured by the `enemy,' however, Algren falls under the spell of the Samurai Code of Honor and switches his allegiance in battle, ending up fighting with the samurai (whom he views as the equivalent of `Indian underdogs' in the struggle) against the people he was brought over to train. The film, thus, becomes a study in redemption as this one man attempts to find his place in the scheme of things and to erase the life-crippling guilt of his past actions.

Director Edward Zwick, who made one of the best war films of modern times (`Glory'), has had less success here, mainly because he stacks the deck so shamelessly in favor of the samurai that we can't help feeing manipulated all throughout the film. In many ways, `The Last Samurai' is as guilty of one-sidedness as those old time Westerns that used to portray the Indians as faceless savages and the White Man as noble adventurers and heroes. Each perspective seems equally unhistorical and phony. It's hard for us to see much meaning in Algren's redemption when the people he is following spend much of their time garroting themselves and chopping off one another's heads. And all the talk about `honor,' `shame,' the beauty of cherry blossoms and getting in touch with the inner self through a zen-type lifestyle don't amount to too much when we stand back and realize that the samurai were basically bloody warriors who often terrorized the general populous with their acts of brutality and violence. The makers of the film want us to see a vast moral chasm separating the samurai from both the Japanese military and the evil American colonials who support them, but it is, ultimately, a distinction without a difference. So when we are asked to cheer on Algren and his compatriots in battle or weep over their fate, the movie loses its grip on us in a major way. The film becomes just another case of glorifying and romanticizing a way of life that we somehow suspect was a bit less noble and honorable than we have always been led to believe by the countless movies on the subject.

Technically, `The Last Samurai' is a mighty impressive achievement. In addition to the eye-catching vistas of rural Japan and a beautifully recreated 19th Century city, the film's large-scaled battle sequences have been stunningly mounted and executed - though the faint-of-heart should note that the body count on screen is enormous and the blood flows generously throughout. There are, also, some admittedly touching moments scattered throughout the film, though the Hollywood corn is never too far from the surface (particularly in Algren's romantic attachment to the wife of a man he killed).

`The Last Samurai' is a joy to look at, but its unsubtle approach to its material and lack of evenhandedness make it far less meaningful and moving than, I'm sure, it both wanted and intended to be.


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Frequently Asked Questions

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Details

Official Sites:

Official site

Country:

USA | New Zealand | Japan

Language:

English | Japanese

Release Date:

5 December 2003 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Last Samurai: Bushidou See more »

Filming Locations:

Santa Clarita, California, USA See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$140,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$24,271,354, 7 December 2003

Gross USA:

$111,127,263

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$454,627,263
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Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

DTS | Dolby Digital | SDDS

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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