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10/10
Beautiful
mstomaso21 May 2005
After my third viewing, I can finally admit that this film has me. I enjoyed it during its theatrical run, enjoyed it more the second time around, and now, I can only say that I love it. The cast is exemplary. Tom Cruise is so good in this film that it is very often easy to forget he is Tom Cruise. Easily his most powerful role and best performance since Jerry Maguire. Ken Watanabe, however, is incredible in every scene - acting with a rare sensitivity and intensity and breathing life into a character much larger and more human than the grand story of which he is a part. Though the entire cast is excellent, I feel that I must also single out Koyuki and Shichinosuke Nakamura for, respectively, the female lead and the emperor, for the subtle strength and believability they each give their very challenging roles.

The story takes place during the early modernization of Japan, in the 1870s and 1880s. The Emperor's power has been weakened by the political and economic power of his cabinet, by his young age, and by the political influence of the United States and other western powers pulling the strings of his cabinet and supplying modern weaponry and tactics to the modernizing Japanese army. Cruise plays Captain Allgren, an alcoholic veteran who has seen and participated in too many massacres of innocent people, and is offered an opportunity to reclaim some of his honor by helping to train the Japanese military in the use of firearms. When he arrives in Japan, we learn that the first test of the Japanese army and its new weapons will be against a rebellious group of samurai who believe themselves to be in the service of the Emperor and Japan, but resist the Emperor's cabinet and the influence of western nations. In the power void left by a passive emperor, Japan seems poised to enter into a civil war against its own values, faith and honor. During the first attack on the Samurai, Allgren is captured by the Samurai and begins a spiritual, physical and philosophical journey which will bring him a level of self-respect his own culture could never supply.

My interpretation of this journey is that Allgren has found a place and people that offer him redemption, where, in his own world, he can find none. But Allgren's is only a small part of the story - which ultimately revolves around what is right for Japan, for the subjectivity of a whole nation, and how to portray such a subject from its own perspective. Traditional Japan is treated with empathy here, not aggrandizing exaggeration, as some of the film's critics seem to suggest. This is not a film about what is objectively right and wrong, but a film about struggling to understand and empower tradition as a means to control and benefit from change. I find no grand moral statement here, but rather an intense, sympathetic, human drama with a strong sense of honor and sacrifice.

Edward Zwick has made a film which operates well at every level, carrying simple but profound philosophical ideas, but avoiding the mistake of making these ideas and the characters that express them super-heroic. Ultimately, this beautifully shot film conveys powerful messages about war, tradition, ethics, honor and culture, which, though not particularly original, are sensitively and intelligently brought forward. There is a lot of action, including some remarkably well-acted sword fighting and martial artistry, but none of it seems unnecessary and the whole film is truly tightly woven. My highest recommendation.
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9/10
A Potpourri of Vestiges Review: Pride and Honour
Murtaza Ali17 May 2009
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.

http://www.apotpourriofvestiges.com/
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10/10
Brilliant!
FilmLabRat4 December 2003
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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9/10
Cruise and Watanabe conquer with great performances
filmbuff-3614 December 2003
Warning: Spoilers
It is said that the only thing constant is change. Old ideals die off, and new technologies replace the inefficiencies of yesteryear. The young usually have little trouble adjusting to change, but traditionalists are often dragged into the new era either kicking and screaming or silently resolved to remove themselves completely.

"The Last Samurai" manages to capture a little of both, with Japanese men living in a world in transition from ancient bushido rituals of honor into a more modern empire of industry and trade. A sweeping historical epic that hints at the brilliance of Akira Kurosawa's finest work while also invoking the melancholy of a Shakespearean tragedy, the movie is a reminder of the cost of high ideals and danger of industrial conformity.

It's 1876, and Captain Nathan Algren (Tom Cruise) is an alcoholic wreck of a man. A veteran of the Civil War as well as General Custer's Indian campaigns, he drifts from one situation to another ostensibly looking for work but really seeking refuge from his inner demons of slaughtering innocent women and children.

Opportunity knocks in the form of an old Army acquaintance Colonel Ben Bagley (Tony Goldwyn), who has accepted work with a Japanese businessman named Omura (Masato Harada). Omura has been charged with recruiting American war vets as military advisors to the new Japanese Army. Emperor Meiji, under advise from Omura and other parties, is interested in modernizing his nation's military with rifles and other armaments.

In order to unify the nation, the powers that be must first take care of civil dissidence within Japan. The samurai, led by charismatic chieftain Katsumoto (Ken Watanabe), are violently opposing the invasion of Western culture into their islands. Bagley foolishly sends his ill-trained soldiers into combat against the samurai, and during the resulting massacre Algren is captured and taken to the samurai's village.

During the course of the winter, Algren slowly gains the trust of his captors and in turn is given free roam over the village. He fights with Uijo (Hiroyuki Sanada), who dislikes the American from the beginning, and is given food and shelter by Taka (Koyuki), the wife of one of samurai he killed during battle.

Katsumoto meanwhile seeks to learn about his enemy, and begins to respect Algren as a fellow warrior. Also interested in the American is Katsumoto's son Nobutada (Shin Koyamada), intrigued by Western culture. Algren finds the first peace he has known in a long time, and begins to adapt to the ways of the samurai. He acts as a surrogate father to Taka's children, learns to sword fight with a kitana blade and begins to respect the culture that he originally sought to destroy.

But during Algren's absence the Japanese Army has had better opportunity to prepare themselves, and time is soon approaching that will determine the fate of the samurai and the future of Japan.

"The Last Samurai" is beautifully filmed by John Toll, the same cinematographer who worked on "Braveheart." The comparisons are obvious with moments of silent reflection and loud explosions of fury, both powerfully captured on film.

Director Edward Zwick brings the same determination to the screen that he did more than a decade ago with "Glory." The attention to period detail is near flawless and the movie never releases its grip on the audience.

As Algren, Cruise grows from suicidal depression to driven idealist quite realistically, drawing on the standard dishonored warrior archetype while giving him touches of humanity. Cruise's only shortcoming is his lack of dramatic range, and as such it never seems like Algren has any sinister intent even when acting selfishly. Never for a moment is there a doubt that he's destined to be a hero.

Cruise is also overshadowed in every scene by Watanabe, who makes Katsumoto a honorable man who is shocked by all the dishonor threatening to overthrow his country. Philosopher, poet, family man and warrior - Katsumoto wears many hats, and is realized through Watanabe perfectly.

Other smaller roles are captured by strong performances as well, including Goldwyn who brings class to the standard villain role as Bagley, Koyuki who plays Taka with quiet sadness and torn loyalties between her fallen husband and his killer who she is growing to love, and Koyamada who makes Nobutada young and headstrong but still sympathetic and honorable.

"The Last Samurai" only suffers during a protracted finale that screams of studio interference. The ending smacks of being safe, clean and Hollywood, something that almost betrays to whole film.

The movie is still strong enough to become a modern day classic. Like "The Wild Bunch," it speaks to those curious of what became of warriors who outlived their time. Timeless issues of honor, loyalty and redemption as well as the clashing of ancient culture versus new technology remain omnipresent. To remain in the past in foolish, but to forget it entirely is disgraceful.

Nine out of ten stars. Destined to be remembered for some time, this movie honorably deals with its subject matter.
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9/10
a truly epic film, definitely Oscar worthy
oli_rawlings15 September 2005
This film is the best Tom Cruise film ever, alongside Ken Watanabe's superb acting. Though slow paced at first it demonstrates the importance of honour, not judging people on first impressions... This film follows a rather sad story of fighting for tradition and avoiding judging anyone until you meet them. It is full of truly breath-taking scenery in Japan and superb battle scenes. The lead actors are truly amazing which goes very well with a great story. This film really proves that Tom Cruise can act! This film deserves more credit however, it is truly Oscar worthy, for Watanabe's acting and battle scenes mainly.

The story is basically about an American captain (Cruise) who is tormented by his gruesome past that is hired to train the army to kill the samurai which are raiding the country. He faces them in battle with rookie soldiers and therefore lost and was captured by the samurai leader Katsumoto (Watanabe) which kept him alive simply because he is like every samurai very spiritual and believes in his dreams and knew their was a purpose for him to live. After a the long slow process of trying to find out information about his enemy, Algren (Cruise) simultaneously begins training in the way of the samurai and comes to love their way of life and develops a friendship with Katsumoto. After a series and turn of events the story develops like a roller coaster ride and fight together for their survival.

This film is honestly one of the best dramas/war dramas I have ever seen, combined with a superb story, and action of amazing creativity in the dialogue, setting and all the scenes! Truly Oscar worthy, ashame it didn't win any, they makers really deserved more credit.

9/10
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10/10
One of the most beautifully crafted films ever made.
Leigh Jeffries15 January 2005
If you have NOT seen the film then stop reading this review and go rent, buy or borrow it right now! What are you waiting for? This is a 10 out of 10 must see.

The casting, location, storyline and direction of this film is simply excellent. I say this is Tom Cruise's finest acting hour. A story of honour, integrity, tradition, courage and love entwined with great battle scenes, beautiful scenery and superb acting, especially in the lead roles of Cruise and Ken Watanabe.

For me personally I have no faults with this film. I do not possess a vast knowledge of Samurai history other than what we see on TV and read in magazines so cannot comment on it's depiction of true Samurai legend. A real gem.
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8/10
"Success is a journey, not a destination" - Zen saying
revere-730 August 2004
The Last Samurai is a strictly by-the-numbers samurai epic set in 1876-1877 Japan. All the necessary ingredients are here - beautiful Japanese landscapes and costumes, larger than life battlefield sequences, and eastern philosophy.Although the pageantry is not as beautiful as such samurai epics as "Heaven and Earth", it is more than adequate.

Do not, however go into this film expecting "Kill Bill", grindhouse type swordplay nor the poignancy of a Kurosawa piece. Instead, "The Last Samurai" occupies the middle ground; a human story of one Westerner learning to embrace another culture kind of a mixture of "Dances With Wolves" and "Shogun", films from which it derives almost directly. And this is the films greatest flaw. It is utterly predictable. No spoilers here, we all know what happens to the samurai. If not, the title ought to give you a clue. Every scene is one that you were expecting to see. And the ending is the ending you expect.

But Zwick and co. still manage to weave an engaging story with panache, and a climactic (despite it's predictability) ending, and that is why "The Last Samurai" is such a great film. As the Zen saying goes, "Success is a journey, not a destination". It is equally applicable to the samurai in the film, and the film itself. A success. 8/10.
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10/10
Wonderful Film
mileniumanimator13 March 2005
I disagree with a lot of the reviews of this film. Yes, it is true that it does glorify a lifestyle in an exaggerated and unfairly sublime way, but I think we're missing the point. This film is romanticism vs. modernism. It's purity vs. corruption. It's not so much the premise or believability, but the substance behind it.

Tom Cruise is an actor who is both idolized (by fans) and ridiculed (by critics) In this film he dazzles us as a drunken U.S General haunted by a bloody past. I was pushing for him to get an Oscar Nod, but alas, None came. "The Last Samurai" wasn't particularly well received and that was disconcerting to me. I'd recommend it to anyone with a taste for romance and for anyone who simply longs for a little less "celebrity wedding" and a little more "help the old lady across the road".
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9/10
Japan vs Japan
monarcas10110 November 2009
This movie is one of the best films I have seen. It is very different from any other samurai movies or any film that has to do with the Americans or Japanese in the eighteen hundred. This film combined American history and Japanese history that practically no public school teaches as far as i know.

In The Last Samurai we see a lot of betrayal Japanese vs Japanese and Americans vs American.Many battles are fought during this film not just against Beliefs but their inerselfs.Characters in the movie have to brake the law to do what is right for their country or to just become a symbol, a symbol of hope for other Japanese to not forget their culture.

For them to recognize who they really are and were they come from and for other country's to accept them without judging about appearance and culture but whats success they can bring with others countries.
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8/10
The Last Samurai - a labor of love dedicated to the spirit of the Samurai warriors
Ruby Liang (ruby_fff)2 October 2005
"The Last Samurai" 2003 and "The Last of the Dogmen" (1995 d: Tab Murphy, with Tom Berenger and Barbara Hershey in the lead) are both films with the theme of the 'last' of warrior spirits (one is Samurai, one is Cheyenne). The production of The Last Samurai is well worth seeing - the glory of a large-scale Hollywood production it is. From the research of the historical Japanese Meiji period, the mannerisms, the way different classes of people dress, the settings, the battle weapons and armory, how the Samurai train and fight, to the study and appreciation of the Art of War - where men of honor and integrity in service to the Emperor is the thing to die for. The film title in three Kanji characters means The Way of the Warrior (Samurai). The one character shown on screen at the very beginning (romanization: Sze) meant in the service of the King. Hence the definition of Watanabe's Samurai lifelong one true goal - to serve his Emperor, one and only, and to die in the service of the Emperor would be an honor.

The film, directed by Ed Zwick, is truly a combined labor of love of everyone involved. From the producer-lead actor Tom Cruise and Zwick's film-making partner Marshall Herskovitz, cinematography by John Toll and film score by Hans Zimmer, to the costuming details, diverse casting, location scouting all the way to New Zealand and training of the supporting cast - even the official Web site with extensive production notes - all provide enhanced appreciation of this remarkable film. The storyline and drama of "The Last Samurai" evoke various level of emotions, pulling the heartstrings of the audience with high emotional energy - suspense, sadness, smiles, empathy, joy.

"Kagemusha" by Akira Kurosawa, of course, is the ultimate grandeur of a historic Samurai epic. "The Last Samurai" is comparable in drama and treatment if not with equal passionate efforts all round. Both are available on DVD with special features of audio commentary and the making of 'featurette' and more.
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9/10
Masterpiece!
Ashur Lazar (ruhsa)29 March 2018
Such an amazing film!

Tom Cruise is definitely one of my favorite actors (if not my favorite) and this film is one of his best (if not the best film). This has to be one of my all-time favorite movies. Definitely worth watching, you won't regret it!

I watched this without knowing what to expect and trust me the movie won me from the first moment, as the movie goes on it's just getting better and better, Tom Cruise at his very best!

In my opinion this deserves to be on the Top 250 list, This film is honestly one of the best dramas/war dramas I have ever seen, combined with a superb story, and action of amazing creativity in the dialogue, setting and all the scenes! Truly Oscar worthy, a shame it didn't win any, the makers of the film really deserved more credit.

My Rating Is 9/10 .
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gripping and visually stunning
Special-K8826 March 2004
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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9/10
Great quality, under-rated movie
Fred M. Carrito10 September 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Although not a box-office hit and factually inaccurate, I love this movie and would definitely put it in my top 10 favorites of all time. My wife just bought me a PS3 and I had to pick up a blu-ray disk to see the difference for myself. With SO MANY terrible, terrible movies available on blu-ray (Flyboys, Stealth, and Reign of Fire - the movie i consider to be one of the worst of all time - just to name a few), I decided to pick this up even though I already owned it on DVD. I had seen the movie in HD on DirecTV before, so there were no surprises regarding quality, but I was still really impressed when switching between this and the 480p picture produced by my DVD player. The colors are much more vibrant, the clarity is remarkable and it serves to submerse you in a movie that was already great as it was. As a huge fan of the movie as well as of HD picture quality, I was happy to pick this up at Best Buy for $25, but I probably wouldn't recommend getting this if you have it on DVD already unless you're a big fan. Now, if they could just get the Lord of the Rings Trilogy on Blu-Ray...
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10/10
An amazingly beautifully crafted and executed Epic film
lopcar199311 October 2009
When I first saw this movie I didn't like the concept, I didn't like the idea of an American solider turning on his kind to fight with the enemy. Boy was I in mature! Now seeing it again now more mature and more knowledgeable of history this film has allot of meaning to me. It's epic, sprawling, beautiful, intelligent, brutal, honorable and most of all heart breaking.

The Last Samurai chronicles the story of a beaten and battered Civli War hero who's seen one too many innocent lives and people killed during his service in the war. Now in 1870's he accepts an offer to train Japans modern army to battle the samurai's, but soon in some strange twist of fate he finds himself learning form his enemy. It's an intense and heart breaking piece of film making that is of the highest caliber, it's a great and powerful film that tells a story of honor and respect and the way of the samurai. It's grand and spectacular and it gives so much of it's self and of it's story the power that it releases is in small capsules that slowly but surely open one at a time releasing strong and bracing scenes from each of them.

Tom Cruise deliverer's one of his finest performances of his career as the battered Civil War hero. Tony Goldwyn is fantastic in the scenes he's in he gives a very good an very convincing antagonistic performance. Billy Connolly(in his small role) does good as always and puts on a very commanding show as the good sergeant. But it is Ken Watanabe who steals the show, his performance is absolutely fantastic and stunning as the leader of the Samurai, he pulls no stops to prove himself and take his game to the next level, he is utterly fantastic. All in all the cast does extraordinarily well in this handsomely mounted film.

The Last Samurai is a blend of old traditions and honor mixed with American military strategies. This film put's up a very good fight and pulls no punches when it comes to story, characters, scenery it put's it's self in the middle of the fight as the Samurai did. It's a beautiful and grand film that needs to be cherished as much as it needs to be respected It's powerful in it's execution, beautiful in it's scenery and production and a staggering piece of film making at it's finest Edward Zwick tops all his previous films and creates a great and magnificent portrayal of what true honor is. All in all The Last Samurai delivers a truly great movie going that will not be forgotten.
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9/10
Beautiful, moving, thought-provoking and haunting
dasickmonkey13 January 2004
I watched The Last Samurai last night for the 1st time, and when the credits came up my eyes began to fill. Now I don't feel like this easily, but there was something about this film that made me feel so good, so different to so many other films. It was like making a New Year promise, as I started thinking about so many different things afterwards, like how much people whine nowadays at the simplest tasks etc. How badly I want to be in love...lol. How beautiful Japan is (I'm going to the Far-East for my first time in July - China). How beautifully Taka (Koyuki) was portrayed, and was not degraded once, by OTT sex scenes or nudity. Her relationship with Nathan (Tom Cruise) was so beautiful, and I felt the pain of both their lives/situations. Just shows how ridiculous wars are...you could kill a man on the battle field....and he may very well have been a good friend. However, the battle scenes were extremely well choreographed and moving and the film contained the perfect amount of action, romance and culture. As a westerner who hasn't ever been to the far-east, yet alone lived in the 19th Century I cannot comment on it's accuracy, but nonetheless I enjoyed every breath during this superb film.

I am now determined to practice my martial art more often, get my revision done for my exams next week! And generally become more 'at one' with myself and the world. Sorry for the cheesey ending.

Peace.
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8/10
Pretty damn good.
jt199924 November 2003
In the hands of a great filmmaker, "The Last Samurai" could have been a great film. As it is, it's a good film -- at times even a very good film -- and that's certainly no small achievement.

Director Ed Zwick, of course, is no David Lean -- though "Glory" and "Courage Under Fire" are excellent films ("Legends of the Fall" is decent, while I consider "Leaving Normal" one of the most mundane films ever made). Here Zwick has attempted a traditional epic, and as with "Courage Under Fire", depicts the horrors of war through a story of personal redemption. Into this basic story he also injects themes of honor, pride, cultural clashes and technological change versus ancient tradition.

Unfortunately, though, no matter how lofty the ambitions, the bottom line here is that in order to transcend the fairly standard hero-goes-on-a-journey-and- undergoes-change plot that we've all seen many times before, something pretty new and special has to be added. It's a little late to rehash the old "Searchers"/ "Emerald Forest"/"Dances With Wolves" tale of the white man being captured by enemies and siding with his captors -- unless it's aimed primarily at people who have never seen "The Searchers" or "The Emerald Forest" (Arthur Penn realized this thirty years ago, and made the hero and the journey of "Little Big Man" primarily comedic -- one of the main reasons the film works as well as it does).

But in the post-Altman/Ashby/Penn era -- where nearly all films -- especially action/adventure films -- have returned to the grandiose seriousness of their 1950s counterparts (with little or none of the wit and satire that crept through in the 60s and 70s), it is therefore pretty much expected that we will get the typical grandiose, serious, high-gloss and overlong treatment all the way through, with very little humor. And that's too bad. Because a lighter touch could have gone a long way towards getting the audience more involved, and making Cruise's character more likable (indeed, the few humorous lines and scenes he has are among the film's most memorable moments; they humanize his character and endear us to him).

And this is one reason "The Last Samurai," despite a bunch of probable Oscars, is going to miss its target of becoming a beloved classic, an action/adventure epic for the ages. Just as Sam Mendes did with "Road to Perdition," Zwick has tried a little too hard to impress. By pouring on the big, movie-type moments, he merely reminds us that he's emulating the greatness of classic directors, without ever equaling them. Zwick -- as I'm sure he will readily admit -- is merely a student of great filmmakers such as Lean or Kurosawa; he will likely never be one himself. The sensibility just isn't there, the life experience is missing.

Cruise, similarly -- despite his talent -- will never be any kind of substitute for a Flynn or a Gable or a Bogart; Cruise is, after all, the kid from "Risky Business" who danced around in his underwear. The grinning jock with the big nose from "Top Gun." The goofball pool hustler from "The Color of Money." The difference between someone like Cruise (or De Niro, or any of today's top stars) and a complex personality such as Stewart or Fonda or Bogart or Gable is simply immeasurable. The heart and soul of those great actors is somehow missing from most of today's performers. So by making a film like "The Last Samurai" in an old-fashioned, traditional way, it constantly invites comparison -- to great stars, to great directors, to the great age of studio filmmaking which, like the Samurai, is now gone -- never to return.

The sad fact is that the great movie-makers are dying off, leaving us with imitators, not originators. In the last ten years we've lost Fellini, Kurosawa, Kubrick, Wilder, Frankenheimer, Fuller. In the last six months alone we lost John Schlesinger and Elia Kazan. Is anyone really expecting to see some sort of masterpiece by a T.V. producer/director named Ed Zwick?!

Still, "The Last Samurai" manages to succeed in a number of ways -- mainly in presenting nineteenth-century Japan in a remarkably realistic way, and in its brutal battle scenes, shot in gory "Braveheart"-style by the great cinematographer John Toll. It is in these terrifying, agonizing moments of sword-versus-rifle battle that Zwick comes closest to emulating his obvious hero, Akira Kurosawa, and manages to comment on the tragedy and insanity of war.

Flashbacks are used unnecessarily to try to enforce Cruise's sense of guilt in participating in the the slaughter of the Indians (so we will understand his desire to defend another endangered species, the Samurai). As the apparent title character, Ken Watanabe pretty much steals the show as Katsumodo, the sage warrior leader whom Cruise befriends. A Japanese actress known only as Koyuki plays the heartbreakingly beautiful wife of a Samurai Cruise kills, who Cruise grows close to. But perhaps most amazing of the Japanese cast is the small boy who plays one of her sons. Unexpectedly expressive, emotional, and charming, he's the type of face you would expect to see in a film by the great Kurosawa. Or Lean. Or Ford.

All technical aspects, from production and costume design to visual effects, are excellent. Hans Zimmer's score, incorporating traditional wood flutes and thunderous drums, is at times touching and evocative, at times bombastic and unnecessarily loud. All in all, "The Last Samurai" is an impressive production. And even if it misses being the cinematic classic it strives towards, all involved can be proud of their accomplishment.

And whatever its faults, it's almost a miracle when a Hollywood studio today turns out something even a fraction this good.
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10/10
Perfect... They are all... perfect...
hemant_balz5 March 2010
Amazing cinema.Top notch movie from Edward Zwick having high class drama & action.Great acting by Tom Cruise & Ken Watanabe.Wow,their conversations are riveting.Casting is superb.Dialogues are appreciative.Cinematography is perfect.This movie is all about the American Captain Nathen Algren (Tom Cruise) who captured by the samurai tribal leader Katsumoto(Watanabe) begins to differ on loyalties.Whether he is a samurai or a captain who was to suppress the rebel samurai.Brilliant movie to watch.You would love to watch it over again & again.I don't understand why its not in the top 250.Sure its in my top 250.Fantastic soundtrack.The ending is superb.For honor & for this movie i give it my personal best 10.Katsumoto said "The perfect blossom is a rare thing. You could spend your life looking for one, and it would not be a wasted life".Trust me if you see this movie then you wont think that it was a waste of your time.Just to honor the samurai you have to breathe this movie & watch it.Must watch!!!!!!
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10/10
Movie that breaks though men's hearts!
kecman-s10 January 2017
First of all, let me express my deepest sorrow because this movie is not in IMDb's top 250, but that's only my opinion. Secondly, to explain my thoughts and feelings that I have written beforehand, I love this movie because it contains everything an action movie should have, a hero, a supporting hero, horrible villains, a fair maiden, fight scenes and most of all that deep strong and manly warrior emotion. Of course, everyone who might be reading this and hasn't watched it has my highest recommendations to do it, boy or girl, old or young you will not be disappointed. To conclude I will just say that this is the only move that made me cry, and yes, I watched Bambi when I was a kid :D
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10/10
Beauty beyond words
Horror Icon29 October 2016
Warning: Spoilers
"The perfect blossom is a rare thing. You can spend your life looking for one, and it would not be a wasted life."

Honestly, this is my favourite movie. Funny, because 'War' is one of my least favourite genres. But this movie is what I think is perfection. I admire Japanese culture, which probably helped, but this just had something special about it. And I can't finish watching it without tears welling up in my eyes (I think this is the only movie I've ever cried whilst watching). It's sad, it's heartbreaking, and it's very much how the world has been. There are many things that can be learnt from this movie.

Ultimately, the movie comes down to people defending something they love and hold dearly, and dying for that and a precious and forgotten code of values - Bushido.

It's amazing how the movie takes you down the exact path of Algren (Tom Cruise) - at first you view the Samurai as evil and you're sure you can't forgive them for what they did in that first battle scene, but as you see more and learn more, you begin to love the very thing you thought you'd always hate.

Despite other movies being similar (namely 'Defiance'), they just don't hold the same beauty and intricacies of 'The Last Samurai'.

If you're looking for something to make you cry, try this. Even if you aren't, watch it anyway. Wouldn't recommend anything more highly.
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1/10
A comment from a Japanese watcher
t_man_jp7 May 2005
I am a Japanese. In this movie I see many false misunderstandings and errors on Japanese culture. For example, they try to overlap Samurais and Native Americans, which is very difficult for Japanese to comprehend. In one scene, Samurais were fighting in a jungle. We do not have a jungle in Japan. They try to depict that swords are the most important thing for samurais, which is not true at all. Bushido is not that shallow.

The only notable thing I observed in this movie is that the Hollywood finally learned to be capable of treating foreign cultures positively. I know it is very difficult to make a movie about foreign cultures free from misunderstandings and prejudice.

If you want to touch the real Bushido, which Japanese natives embrace, I recommend that you read "Bushido" written by Nitobe Inazo, or watch "Chushingura".
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10/10
beautiful,moving,well acted picture
disdressed1229 January 2007
Tom Cruise is Captain Nathan Algren,who in 1870 is hired by the Emperor of Japan to train the Japanese Army in modern warfare.The Emperor than hopes to bring about an end to the Samurai,who have remained with the old way of fighting.As events unfold,Algren is captured by the Samurai and while treated with indifference and disdain at first,he slowly becomes part of the community.he begins to learn the Samurai ways,and gains their trust and friendship.in turn,he develops a newfound respect for the samurai way,and in time,becomes a better man for it. Even if you are not a Tom Cruise fan,you should still like this movie.Cruise plays Algren as a man who is at first,deeply flawed,with no hope.Then,as the movie progresses,Cruise convincingly portray's Algren's slow,but noticeable change into a humble man who regains his humanity and discovers what it means to be a man.This Movie is directed by Edward Zwick(Glory,Legends of the Fall.The screenplay was written by John Logan(Any Given Sunday,Gladiator).the action scenes are well done and look authentic.the dialogue is well written,leading to some very touching scenes.the movie is also visually stunning. everyone involved put their heart and soul into this project and it shows. 10/10
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5/10
Dances with Samurai
petra_ste24 March 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Imagine someone giving you a neatly wrapped, elegant package: you open it and it's empty. That's what blockbusters like The Last Samurai feel like: great photography, costumes and set design, an A-list star surrounded by solid character actors, a few nicely choreographed scenes... and yet it's vapid, pointless fare.

Lt. John Dunbar - I'm sorry, I meant Captain Nathan Algren (Cruise) - trains the Japanese Emperor's troops against rebel Samurai led by Katsumoto (Ken Watanabe). Of course Algren is the only survivor of a disastrous skirmish caused by his superiors' arrogant incompetence, of course he is captured, of course he discovers the nobility of the Samurai way of life contrasting with the sleazy mediocrity of their enemies - not the young Emperor, who, of course, is misguided but noble, although not as noble as Katsumoto, who of course comes across as a mix between Crazy Horse and Obi-wan Kenobi.

Question of the week: what on Earth does an American character have to do with this distinctly Japanese tale? Well, obviously he gives western audiences a white hero to identify with! Because we couldn't possibly relate to a story with only Japanese characters! (Sarcasm detectors should be beeping at this point). It goes without saying Algren becomes an accomplished Samurai in a ludicrously short time, finds the love of a pretty widow - funny how in this kind of movie NOTHING is worth doing (no quest, no fight for an ideal) if you don't get laid in the process - and is quickly worshipped by the same people he had set out to destroy. In fact, there are so many scenes in which he saves the day and is gazed at with awe that I wanted to throw something at the screen.

Cruise is a generally solid actor but here he gives a standard "stoic, brooding Cruise" performance. Watanabe is excellent, dignified and charismatic; Connolly and Spall are pretty good; the whole thing is as glossy as a luxury car commercial. The result is an oriental remake of Dances with Wolves, only without guts - and, although the last battle is slick eye-candy, hearing comparisons between The Last Samurai and the works of the late Akira Kurosawa is truly depressing.

5,5/10
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1/10
a disappointing movie if you have watched Japanese films about samurais
bigeyesforbeauty25 November 2005
Warning: Spoilers
I like Japanese movies and I like movies about samurais and for some reason after I saw the ads I bought a ticket and went to the cinema to watch it. I expected something like the "Shogun" with it holliwoodish but still interesting entertaining exploration of Japanese culture. But what I saw was so cheesy that walking out of the theatre I felt like I start hating Tom Cruise for lurking me into the 2 hour popcorn- for-the-brains show. I always expected Tom Cruise to finally die, but he never did. Instead he went on chopping the samurais (who, supposedly dedicated all their life to the sword fighting art) right and left. The scenes where he trains with the master of sword remind me all those hundreds of cheesy Rambo-Kickboxer movies where the white Americans kick the asses of their Asian adversaries in the field of the martial arts after having trained those arts for some 10 minutes. The movie is quite expensive and has a pretense of being a historical drama, but the plot and the message of it are just way too cheesy. Hollywood clichés are oozing from every scene. The worst part is the ending where Tom Cruise (an Amercian officer who came to teach Japanese the modern Western war technique and subsequently underwent a transformation embracing the "old ways" of noble fighting with the katana sword) together with his noble friends dash in their last suicidal charge with the naked swords right onto the machine guns of emperor's army and... what I see: all Japanese are dead and Tom Cruise is still hanging on, all wounded of course, but alive and with this tremendously heroic face he tries to stand up, alone among the corpses of all his friends. Here the director apparently wants us to cry and sympathize with our hero, but all I felt was a creepy feeling that one might feel when observing something so utterly false and cheap cheesy that you want to shudder. So my verdict is: It is bad, very bad. Even for Tom Cruise.
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10/10
A perfectly marvelous, perfect movie.
Andy-28423 March 2009
Full disclosure: I'm a HUGE fan of Ed Zwick as a director and filmmaker. Full disclosure: I'm an even bigger fan of what he and his team created in "The Last Samurai." Tom Cruise, never better. Ken Watanabe, masterful. Direction, script, music, costume, art direction, cast ... without peer. Far from being the "racist" film some PC types have labeled it, this is a work of art, a beautiful, poignant story about warriors, honor, duty (to country and self) and friendship, and perhaps in more esoteric terms, peace, harmony and the secrets and mysteries of life itself. It's all there if you let the story tell itself to you. As a cinematic experience alone, you'll be richly rewarded. I won't belabor other good reviews by taking more time repeating many of the points they've already well made. See it once and let it take you where it will. You'll learn something about yourself and the world you live in, the lessons are that timeless. It will be a film that sticks with you, that you'll treasure again and again.
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7/10
Breathtaking battles and spellbound scenarios in this epic Samurai
ma-cortes12 December 2005
The picture is based on historic events . Being dead emperor Komei , succeeded in 1867 Mutsu Hito ( at the film is played by Nakamura) , one time crowned as emperor Meiji , he abolished the Shogun , a dynasty occupied by the Togugawa family from XVI century until 1868 and characterized by ruling ¨ Daimios ¨ , confronting occidental people and shunning the opening imposed by Admiral Perry in 1863 ; he was the first foreigner in Japan who undergoes a culture shock ( happenings developed in various films as ¨the Barbarians¨ with John Wayne and ¨ Shogun ¨ with Richard Chamberlain ). Matsu Hito carried out various changes, as a liberal cabinet , creating a Duma or Parliament and following actual models and modern spirit ; plus contracting foreign specialists in Army , military ( at the film Tom Cruise, Tony Goldwyn, Billy Connolly ). Anti-reforms riots to return old values , traditional way of life and code Bushido were realized by the Samurais (in picture , leader is Ken Watanabe ), a type of medieval knight for preventing of occidental life style . Emperor Meiji pulled off two wars , he waged war to China(1894-95) and Russia(1904-05) and when he died the throne was occupied by his son Yoshihito and continuing Hiro Hito and Aki Hito .

Tom Cruise becomes the first Shogun or Samurai warrior from the Western world . Stunning battle images illuminate the full-blown tragedy of Samurais . Glimmer and colorfully filmed by cameraman John Toll . It's an impressive epic , heartbreaking statement about honor , tradition and futility of war . The film deals with conflicts between the radical conservatism and modernism ; upon relation of the West and East World . Besides , a sweeping, complex human drama with all the ingredients : action, spectacular battles, inter-racial love story, Katana duels , emotions and is very interesting . Evocative score by Hans Zimmer. Motion picture is well directed by Edward Zwick . Rating : Better than average .
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