Dances With Samurai
Captain Nathan Algren (Tom Cruise) an American War Captain and hero, who now despises his past and seeks solitude from the bottle is offered a vast amount of money to go to Japan to train up their army to fight and defeat the remaining rebel Samurai. Unfortunately he is injured and captured in action by the Samurai, and instead of being killed he is taken back to their village hide away. Although he is the enemy, he is not treated like a prisoner, and soon he comes to understand and respect the Samurai.
"The Last Samurai" is a surprisingly powerful movie which holds your attention with an engaging story, dialogue, action and glorious scenery. The story which can be compared with "Dances With Wolves" is more about a man who is at war with himself, as he hates his past and what he has become, but under the guidance of the Samurai he discovers his real self and what is important in life.
The dialogue in "The Last Samurai" is also extremely good, I honestly expected it to be a bit cliché ridden but it was very enjoyable and has real meaning. There are several action sequences within the film but instead of being over the top pieces, they look very real. The fight sequences between the Samurai and the army are really well shot and you feel that you are in the midst of the battle. At the other end of the action scale, is the training Algren receives in sword fighting, it is extremely well choreographed but not to the extent that it looks staged. Finally the scenery in the film is magnificent; not only the beautiful mountain village but the buildings at the port really do provide a breath taking backdrop to the film. All in all, a very good film.
In the lead role of Captain Nathan Algren is Tom Cruise (The Color of Money). Usually I find Cruise's performances to be quite cheesy, but in this case he puts in a very classy performance which shows his true acting capability. Not only does he display good skills in the action sequences he also displays the range of emotions of a man who detests himself but then the happiness when he finds inner peace.
Opposite Cruise is Ken Watanabe (Batman Begins) as Katsumoto the leader of the Samurai. Watanabe plays the part brilliantly as he guides Algren and disperses pearls of wisdom. This character could have come over quite cheesily in a sort of Mr. Miyagi (Karate Kid) sense, but Watanabe has a very powerful presence on the screen which makes his character all the more believable.
In some minor roles, but still important, are Billy Connolly as Zebulan Gant, Algren's second in command, and Timothy Spall as Simon Graham, a historian and interpreter who is Algren's guide. Of course there is a huge supporting cast and really can't be faulted for there performances.
The film is directed by Edward Zwick (Courage Under Fire) who has done a marvellous job of creating what I would class a modern epic. He has stayed focus through out the film on telling the story rather than demonstrating great action sequences or huge special effects. The sound track is provided by Hans Zimmer who provides a good range of pieces which complement each scene, whether it is an emotional piece or a more upbeat action piece.
What this all boils down to is that "The Last Samurai" is definitely a modern epic, which although may be historically flawed it is still highly entertaining and very watch able. The story is engrossing and the performances tell it very well.