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The Last Samurai – Review March 31, 2009

Posted by Cello in Domestic Film Reviews.

Yeah, so, The Last Samurai is basically a domestic film but if there was ever a more American film that was influenced by asain cultures…it is this. So, it qualifies a spot on my blog, and most importantly, I enjoyed it. Additionally, I think ‘The Last Samurai’ could well be to Japan what Braveheart was to Scotland. The Last Samurai is an epic portrayal of the intimate story of cultures at a crossroads as imperial Japan undergoes a tumultuous transition to a more Westernised society. Possessed of a certain nobility, combined with an eagerness to please, The Last Samurai proves it’s possible to take the film out of Hollywood, but not always take Hollywood out of the film.

The film is about two men from very different backgrounds who become united by honour and respect. Both are warriors who fight their demons as much as their enemies and who desire to understand and learn from each other in the hope of finding peace. Tom Cruise plays Nathan Algren, a highly decorated American civil war veteran who drinks to dull the horrific memories that haunt him. Reduced to promoting Winchester rifles, Algren is approached by Omura (Masato Harada) on behalf of the Japanese emperor who is enamoured of all things western and willing to pay him handsomely for training his troops to quell a Samurai rebellion. Overall, The Last Samurai is a flawed story of redemption and cultural adaptation but a great action film.


Just like movies like, The Matrix Reloaded, this is an action film that shows a war between tradition and sees evolution as puppet of greed. Obviously, The Last Samurai isn’t a very innovative work. However, the homage is served through gorgeous cinematography, attention to historical details and the implication of its actors.

The views of the Japanese countryside, and the lifestyle and culture of the Samurai were truly amazing to experience. The majority of the movie was very engrossing for me but I did have a general problems with the Last Samurai. Particularly some dodgy characterisations and an ending which could have had far more impact. Tom Cruise and Ken Watanabe are very excellent in their roles and carry this movie solely on their backs. Watanabe brilliantly captures the difficult situation that Katsumoto faces as he must choose between loyalty to his Emperor and loyalty to the traditions that he cares deeply about. What about Tom Cruise you ask? Well, in my opinion, for all his conviction and ability, is the ultimate symbol of contemporary Hollywood. A very moving piece of Cinema. Recommended.


1. Phear - March 31, 2009

I’ve seen this several times, and it truly is a beautiful movie. It’s honestly rare to see Tom Cruise in a movie like this, in my opinion. Haha…

Also, VERY nice new blog header! 😀

2. cello85 - March 31, 2009

Yes, I am a big Cruise fan regardless of his antics, but he hasn’t really made anything that I really liked since MI:III, I hear he is doing part IV, so thats cool!

Thanks for the compliment, I try to make this site conitnually evolve over the next few weeks. As far as blogging standards go, I am still a newbie 🙂

3. Dev Vyas - April 1, 2009

I’m not a big Cruise fan, but this film made him great, I loved it. I would give it an 8 out of 10 (simplified to 4 out of 5) 😀

4. Heather - April 1, 2009

This was a brilliant movie, but I felt a huge part of that success was owed to Ken Watanabe. His performance was outstanding, and made some of the more typical deliveries of Cruise forgotten by the authenticity of his performance.

The film itself is so melancholy. It was considerably better than I had anticipated.

5. ironanno - August 23, 2009

Definitely a good film, but I felt it didn’t do anything original. I felt the book Shogun by James Clavell must have had a big influence on the movie. The story is rather similar, if set in an earlier era, telling the story of an englishman who happens to find himself in Japan when his ship crashes there and after the first shock slowly learns to respect the culture and goes native. If I hadn’t read the book before seeing the movie I would’ve liked it a lot more I’m sure. With Shogun in mind it felt like a shortened version of the book.

Also the portrayal of ninjas in this film annoyed me. Their attack wasn’t very stealthy and they were disposed of rather easy in the end.

Cello - August 24, 2009

You are very right in your assumptions! The Last Samurai borrowed liberally from that book. Much like Tom Cruise’s character, Blackthorne awakens in an alien world, and must endure a crash-course in Japenese culture. These lessons encompass everything from dining etiquitte, social manners, the proper way to clothe yourself, to the rigid expectations of the caste system–each man to his own way of life, appropriate to his rank. Very good observation!

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