The Last Samurai (2003)

The Last Samurai is a 2003 American epic war film directed and co-produced by Edward Zwick, who also co-wrote the screenplay with John Logan. The film stars Tom Cruise, who also co-produced, as well as Ken Watanabe, Shin Koyamada, Tony Goldwyn, Hiroyuki Sanada, Timothy Spall and Billy Connolly. Inspired by a project by Vincent Ward, it interested Zwick, with Ward later serving as executive producer. The film production went ahead with Zwick and was shot in Ward’s native New Zealand.  The movie follows the story of an American army officer (Cruise) who is recruited in the 1870s to train Japanese soldiers against rebel Samurai who live in the island’s hills, but after fighting against the clan and being captured by its leader (Watanabe), he learns their customs and ways and begins to have second thoughts on the way of the samurai.  (Running Time: 154 minutes)(Rated R for strong violence and battle sequences)

Certainly one of the most beautiful, epic cinematic pieces of all time on my list of best movie flicks, Edward Zwick’s historical action movie is captivating and touches its audiences’ hearts instantly.

Tom Cruise does not rate high on my list of favorite actors; he’s been sold on being a pretty-boy too much since his rise to fame, and generally, I don’t find that sort of actor appealing.  But I do not deny he has some hidden talent here and there.  Personally, this one is one of his few priceless gems.  To know that he undertook the part with a significantly larger dedication that previous projects by jumping into personal journals and documents of Civil War and Indian War veterans, practicing for months on end with Samurai sword play…he just impressed me in this film.  Opening as a disillusioned and guilty American officer, he moves into a compassionate and moving part I just was genuinely pleased with.  So a thumbs up to Mr. Cruise!  Oh, and the supporting role played by Ken Watanabe was just…just…outstanding.  A certain secret energy that will remain a mystery.

John Logan, the film’s screenwriter, I consider to be one of the top ten best Hollywood writers living today.  He has a certain depth and originality I can’t explain–but appreciate and love so much!  He is an A-list screenwriter, having written other epics like Gladiator, The Aviator, Rango, Hugo, and most recently, Skyfall.  Although this story compares with dozens of others (Avatar, Dances With Wolves, Pocahontas come to mind first), The Last Samurai focuses more on the honor and respect of a guiltless culture the stranger who enters the community sees so vividly.  I just love the perspective given in this film.

Thirdly, the music of Hans Zimmer is always powerful, moving, and gorgeous.  He just has such graceful, elegant, tender–and everything else, really!–to offer for movie scores.  He has tried so many different genres, I just want to say he is the master of them all!  The Last Samurai soundtrack just seems more loyally scored to an untouched culture that we are just moved to care for instantly!  Without the music, the movie would not be quite the same.

Along the line of the obvious moral details of honor and respect given throughout the film, I love the movie for the fact that there does not have to be a steamy sex scene involving Tom Cruise, or throwing in language for no apparent reason, as has been done fluently in Cruise action movies in the past.  It’s so tastefully executed.  The closest we get to a naked scene with Cruise is when the girl is dressing him for battle, which is just as properly and visually sensual as anything needs to be!  It proves that you can make a bloody good movie without all the language and sex!  …Okay, maybe I’m getting a little preachy here…

The film, with a high budget of $140 million, did reasonably well at the box office and soared past $450 million in the end!  Nothing to complain about, I would think.  It faired well with the critics and gained four Academy Award nominations, including a Supporting Actor for Ken Watanabe, along with Best Art Direction, Costume Design and Sound.

Oh, definitely 6 out of 7 stars!  It’s a movie I have to watch a few times per year!  The power and tenderness executed in two and a half hours is so moving and great, I can’t help but recommend it to an audience craving a new, fresh, appealing epic!  Also, if you like Samurai, I can almost guarantee your satisfaction!  Highly, highly recommended!

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About Morgan

January 2016 Update: This blog is under reconstruction. Please be patient while we gradually remove old material, posts, and pages, and create new ones. Thank you.
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