The Last Samurai
In the late 1870s, Japan sits between a rich cultural heritage and new technological advances in this epic. A young Japanese emperor and his advisors embark on a course to modernize the country through trade with the Western world. The advisors turn against Japanese traditions to bring about the swiftest financial advantage. The Samurai, led by Katsumoto (Ken Watanabe), renounce Western customs and advances, including modern weapons, and fight to preserve Japan’s cultural identity. Eventually deciding the Samurai must go too, the emperor’s advisors hire American soldiers, experienced in fighting Indians, to destroy the Samurai. This brings Captain Nathan Algren (Tom Cruise), his conscience still tormented from the slaughter of innocent Native Americans, to this war against another indigenous people group. When the Samurai display heroic honor in battle, using swords and bows against rifles and cannons, the emperor’s decision concerning Japan’s future grows more complicated.
Artistically and morally solid, the only negative in this film is the violence. And the battle scenes are brilliant. Filled with honor, integrity and courage, the film’s heroes are the Samurai who remain true to their convictions. The characters display honesty and respect toward one another. A few unacceptable words enter the dialog, but the primary negative element is the graphic violence. Many scenes show people being stabbed, shot or killed. Please exercise discretion if you choose to view this movie. The Last Samurai is a quality — hopefully not the last — film of integrity out of Hollywood. There’s a lot of Oscar talk surrounding this one.