Title: “The Last Samurai”
Run Time: 154 mins
Genre: Action, Adventure, Drama, War, History
Cast: Tom Cruise, Ken Watanabe, Timothy Spall, Bill Connolly, Tony Goldwyn, Hiroyuki Sanada Koyuki, Shichinosuke Nakamura, Hiroyuki Sanada
Director: Edward Zwick ( “Legends of the Fall” “The Siege”)
Plot: What does it mean to be iconic? Just what does it take to be considered legendary? And just what does it take to make such an impact on history, that even when your class of people are destroyed, your people are immortalized in time? It takes a bravery that no one can match…it takes a warrior displaying the fierceness and discipline that no man can ever compare to…it means displaying a sense of honor that no man could ever conceive. The way of The Samurai is the single greatest knowledge a man could ever obtain. Holding the title of being a Samurai is the greatest achievement a man could ever reach. And representing what is considered to be “the last of the Samurai” is the greatest honor any man could ever bestow upon himself. May we never forget,“The Last Samurai”.
Civil War hero Captain Nathan Algren (Tom Cruise) is a man who has lost all sense of connection with what it means to be considered Captain Nathan Algren. And just who is he? He is supposed to be a man of honor who displays all the characteristics of being a modern day hero to his people. He is supposed to be a person who is proud of the man that he has become. But due to a traumatic experience he suffered in the time of war, he no longer sees himself this way and has chosen to live his life through a bottle of whiskey in order to exorcise the demons of his past out of his mind forever. Considering it a challenge to make it through each day, Algren is barely surviving by acting as a celebrity representative for the Winchester rifle corporation for just $25 a week. His life is about to take a drastic change when fellow war veteran and good friend Zebulon Gant (Billy Connolly) presents to him a job opportunity that could only be meant for the likes of a man like him. Algren is now approached by the twisted and power hungry mind of Omura (Masato Harada) who proposes to him that he will be offered $400 a month to teach and train the newly formed Japanese army to fight against the opposing force of the legendary Samurai leader named Katsumoto (Ken Watanabe). Driven only by his own selfish motives, Algren agrees to the terms of his contract and proceeds to the destination of Japan, where he thinks he is going to only carry out his orders and complete his given mission. But what Algren does not realize is that he is now set into motion a chain of events that will eventually determine the fate of his own destiny. It is now month’s later, as it is time for Algren, and his obviously under trained army of merchant’s, to come face to face with their first confrontation with Katsumoto and his fierce Samurai warriors. The battleground is set in a dense wooded forest covered by a haunting mist as to say that this is the battle that will seal their own fate. The terrified Japanese army struggles to hold it lines of defense as Algren sits upon his horse with a cold stare and listens for the approach of his deadly enemy. The earth trembles as the hoofs of hundreds of Samurai ridden horses embark upon the destination of their battlefield. The world around them is filled with fierce Samurai battle cries. As the mist clears, Algren can now see the images of the undaunted and fearless warriors. Algren can now look into the piercing and glaring eyes of his nemesis Katsumoto. Katsumoto can now stare into the war torn eyes of his enemy Algren. Whether they both want to believe it or not, they are both actually now looking into the eyes of their very own destiny’s. What they choose to do with this challenge, bestowed upon them, now lays in the fate of their own hands. Will they choose to give in to their own harsh realities of life and surrender to the enemies that surround them? Or will they choose to take on their newly found revelations of life in a way that will free them of their own demons as they find a new path leading them to a renewed spiritual destination? Whatever the outcome, this will ultimately lead Algren and Katsumoto to the unforgiving answer of, “Do you believe a man is in control of his own destiny?” Only their epic journey’s can reveal that answer.
Upon watching this, I quickly came to realized that I was not just watching any ordinary film. Because no ordinary film could draw me in to the story the way it did. No ordinary film could fill me up with the emotion that it did. No ordinary film could bring me to tears the way “The Last Samurai” did! For a film to bring out the sensitive men’s taboo emotion, known as crying, from me is a monumental task for anyone. The reason this was in any way possible was because of three different waves of excellence and genius that were bestowed upon me.
The first wave was the way this movie was written by John Logan. Every character he created totally complimented every character around them. There was no character who could survive on their own. Each needed the life energy of the other that came in close and constant contact with them. A great example of this are the characters of Captain Nathan Algren and Katsumoto. They both quickly come to realize that both of their lives hang in the balance of the other. Not only that, they both know that their own destiny’s are deeply connected with one another. Along with this, the story itself was a beautifully written masterpiece. I do realize that this really isn’t considered a true story, but it actually really is. It takes the real events of the true life, adventures and outcome of a class of people known as the Samurai and depicts it through the characters and events they experience in this movie in order to display and tell their epic story. It’s because of this writing that compels me and emotionally connects me to everything involved in this film.
The second wave was the brilliance and the genius of the way this movie was directed by Edward Zwick. He totally captured the soul of how this story was supposed to be presented on film. He casted actor’s such as Tom Cruise, who delivered what I consider to be the absolute best performance of his life, and Ken Watanabe who gave one of the most inspiring and emotional roles of anybody’s career. Next, he provided the viewer’s with breath taking scenes that totally captured the true essence and the soul of what it meant to be a Samurai. Such scenes as the one when Tom Cruises character was being taught a harsh lesson of what it means to be a Samurai, by Samurai General Ujio in the pouring rain, displaying the true emotion and feelings coming from inside Ujio, as well as Algren. Or whether it be the storm of emotions that were drawn out from inside me as I witnessed Katsumoto and his Samurai being gunned down by the Japanese army, as their thousand year reign of rule and existence brutally came to a sorrowful end. No matter what scene it was, I was able to make such an emotional connection with the characters and the realization of the fact that the existence of a historical and necessary class of people was about to come to an end. And it’s because of this deep emotional connection I had that allowed feelings from deep inside of me to be stirred up in a way that caused my whole inner being to be suffocated and overwhelmed by wave after wave of intimate emotion.
The third and final wave was delivered through the musical genius of Hans Zimmer. I can’t emphasize enough about how important the music score is to the success of a movie. The job of the music you hear, throughout the movie, is to capture every single moment in order to exploit and enhance every emotion, every feeling, and every expression in a way that draws every viewer in to the story itself. The music allows the person to make a physical and mental connection, causing their viewing experience to be enhanced ten fold. This is exactly the effect that Hans Zimmers music had on me as I watched the entirety of the film. His music allowed me to feel the pain that the characters were feeling. His music brought to life the actual emotions and feelings of everyone involved. I often found myself feeling like I was pulled through a time portal that delivered me to this era of the Samurai. At times I closed my eyes and just listened to the beauty of his music. And the best part about that was the magic that his music was able to produce. Because despite the fact that I had my eyes closed, I was still able to see exactly what was taking place on the screen. With every strum of the violins, with every sound of the horns and with every beat of the drums, awoke every emotion inside of me I have ever felt all at once. Combined with the deep emotional connections I was already feeling with this movie, brought about by the previous waves, I was no longer able to physically hide exactly what I was feeling inside. I felt as though my soul was being shaken. And it was at this point that an uncontrollable river of tears were continually flowing from my eyes.
No other film has ever moved me or effected me in such an emotional way. It was as though I were experiencing the actual heart and soul of “The Last Samurai”.
The Final Cut: This is a movie that will allow you to succumb to your inner-most intimate emotions and feelings. With it’s many superb acting performances, by the likes of Tom Cruise and Ken Watanabe, the sheer genius of John Logan’s writing, the brilliance of Edward Zwick’s directing, and the extraordinary musical talents of Hans Zimmer, “The Last Samurai” will go down in history as one of the all-time best film’s ever made for any genre. Because of the film’s sheer brutality, I would not recommend anyone under the age of 18 to view this movie, but I guarantee that everyone else will be mesmerized and drawn in to this unforgettable epic journey. Like the deadly stroke of a Samurai sword, this movie will penetrate your soul allowing you to become at one with everything within. Be in control of your own destiny, by allowing yourself to surrender to the alluring power and extraordinary vision of “The Last Samurai”.