The Last Samurai

Read Jake Wiseau’s review of The Last Samurai!

Most of the time when people or critics think of Tom Cruise..such terms or phrases such as ” over-acting “…or ” over- confident ” come to mind.  And to others Tom Cruise can do no wrong…I’d like to state before going any further that I’m in the middle..but I lean more towards the fact that Tom Cruise can do no wrong.  Examples of why I feel this way are this movie first and foremost and second in my mind is Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol.   And many may not like Tom Cruise as a person in general but that has absolutely no affect on his acting skills.  You can act or you can’t..regardless of any negative feedback outside of being in movies.  There isn’t anything more liberating than taking me back to the days of early Japan and the provinces that surrounded it and making me feel like I am actually right there the whole time.  Shooting this movie in some of the most gorgeous locations this world has to offer…I was immediately in to this movie from the first time I watched it to even now.  You cannot ignore the filmwork and the beauty of the area that surrounds the protagonists in this film.  Irony is not a word that should be thrown around casually.  The irony in this movie is that against his will Captain Nathan Algren ( Tom Cruise ) is forced to kill any native americans that his superiors deem necessary.  Innocent lives are taken in a misunderstanding.  Entire tribes wiped from existence.  American men scalped, or bodies left mutilated in the wake of the battle that ensued..children belonging to tribes..shot or burned to death with their village.  Clearly all of this can take a toll on a man that in reality only wanted peace.  And in turn has to live with the sins that he chose not to commit.  Given..in the 1800’s there were many hostile tribes..but that doesn’t mean that all of them were.  Much like today..there are good people among us..but there are also terrible people as well.  Imagine having to take the lives of innocent people as a result of other hostile people.  Not an easy pill to swallow I’m sure.  There isn’t always a silver lining..or a happy ending.  But in the case of Nathan Algren…let’s hope there is.

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Summary: 

The movie opens with Nathan ( Tom Cruise ) drinking whiskey behind the curtains for a presentation out on in San Francisco in 1876 by the Winchester company.  As Nathan had won the medal of honor during his time in battle with various indian tribes, Winchester had offered him a job to promote their guns while reading cue cards on stage.  Soon the Winchester representative comes behind the curtains to remind Nathan to come do his performance, and to his dismay..Nathan is drunk and by his frustration you can tell this isnt the first time.  He leads Nathan on stage and tells him before his performance, that this will be his last, and that he is fired.  Nathan proceeds to reading the cue cards will drunk, and loses track..mentioning all of the soldiers that lost their life in an aggressive manner.  You can clearly see that Nathan is hurt and ashamed of what he had to do to the indiam tribes, while at war with them in the military.  Upon leaving, an old friend of Nathans..Sergeant Gant ( Billy Connolly ) meets him outside in the back of the building to offer him a job.  Amazed that he was still alive, Nathan accepts his proposal to at least hear him out.  From there on out Nathan, Gant, and Colonel Bagley ( Tony Goldwyn ) head to Japan to train their soldiers.  Nathan is met by Simon Graham ( Timothy Spall ) a translator and english photographer as sort of a guide while he is in Japan.  The training of Japans soldiers begins and after a few short months Omura (Masato Harada ) and Col. Bagley decide that the soldiers are ready to take on Katsumoto ( Ken Watanabe ) and the rest of the samurai in the provinces they live in.  The motivation for this is that Omura believed that Japan needed to be modernized, that the old ways were of no use any more, and that the way of the samurai was barbaric.  In addition Omura wanted to run the country’s largest railroad through the the samurai’s province and they would not allow that.  They embark on the Yoshino Province in an attempt to battle the samurai and take over their land.  They failed miserably as Japans soldiers were far from ready to battle a culture with such discipline and a history of war.  Nathan is abducted and taken to Nobutada’s village ( Shin Koyamada )..Katsumotos Son.  During his stay there he learns the way of the samurai, begins to enjoy their culture and realizes the are much like the indian tribes he was forced to kill before.  He finally knows peace as he isn’t drinking anymore and allowed the withdrawals to take their course.  So Nathan is presented with a choice.  Fight the samurai and live with the guilt of helping to destroy another culture or tribe?  Or help defend them by fighting with them against a modernized Japan army with guns rather than swords led by Omura and Colonel Bagley.

 last sam 2” For five hundred bucks a month I’ll kill whoever you want.  But keep one thing in mind..I’d happily kill you for free.”

Pros:

Every actor in this movie does a fantastic job portraying their character.  Nathan is a war hero that lives every day of his life with regret, and hate for his superior office, Colonel Bagley.  He has flashbacks and remembers the innocent people of the indian tribes killed for ( most of the time ) committing no crimes whatsoever.  There were always tribes that presented threats and others that were peaceful and presented no harm to others passing through.  I have always loved history, and the story of this movie ties in the battle at The Little Big Horn, involving General Custer and the fact he was arrogant enough to send himself and 211 soldiers against 1,000 indians.  Nathan quotes ” He was a murderer..that fell in love with his own legend…and his troopers died for it.”  Which could not be any more accurate.  The scenery in this movie on its own is something to behold, I’m not sure if I have ever seen a more beatiful landscape and setting for a movie.  The message in this movie is so strong, after killing tribes in the past, Nathan grows fond of yet another tribe and their ways.  He realizes their way of living is so much better and peaceful than the recently modernized Tokyo.  Just the overall idea that these people captured him and showed him hospitality, taught, and showed him the way of their people is so refreshing to me.  Another very strong point is this movie is a real tear jerker.  Nathan stays with the samurai and is offered the red armor of the man he killed while in combat which was the husband of Katsumoto’s sister Taka ( Koyuki ).  Together the fight and fend off the first regiment, regardless of their size and firepower, Omura’s troops retreat..only to bring two more regiments with newly acquired gatling guns that they received from America in a trade agreement.  Knowing their end is near..Katsumoto is reminded of the story that Nathan told him about the brave 300 greeks fighting against the persians at the Battle of Thermopylae, and asked ” What happened to the warrriors at Thermopylae? ”  Nathan responds as he smiles..” Dead to the last man. ”  Katsumoto nods his head in approval and gets ready for another battle, that would ultimately be lost.  This is such an empowering and strong point of this movie.  The samurai would never allow Omura to overtake their land because that would bring shame to them.  And as the movie says..Samurai cannot accept the shame of defeat, and Nathan was no different.  The two regiments eventually show up and after a skirmish they decide to bring out the new guns ( gatling guns. )  Incredible music plays ( Hans Zimmer ) as Nathan and Katsumoto ride full speed on their horses towards Omura , Colonel Bagley and the guns.  Nathan and Katsumoto are shot numerous times on the way and eventually fall of their horses in the middle of the field.  Knowing Katsumoto is near death..Nathan crawls closer to take his sword knowing that the samurai live and die by the sword, realizes he has to kill his best friend with his sword to spare him pain and to send him off the right way.  He asks ” Are you ready? “..smiles and then says ” I will miss..our conversations.”  then plunges the sword into him holding him close.  This is one of the most well done and beautiful scenes I have ever seen in a movie…its incredible.  Out of respect one of Omura’s officers stop the guns and bow in a circle around Nathan and his fallen friend.  An extremely injured Nathan stumbles in to report to the Emperor ( Nakamura Schicinosuke )  who asks ( in regards to Katsumoto ) ” Tell me how he died. ”  As the Emperor and Katsumoto were extremely good friends.  To which Nathan replies..” I will tell you..how he lived. ”  One of my favorite quotes out of all of the movies I have ever seen,  The setting the timing and the delivery were nothing short of spectacular.

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 ” Are you ready?…I will miss our…conversations. “

Cons:

In a way..the hatred for Nathan towards Colonel Bagley is a little unjustified.  I like the heated conversations between them, but early in the movie, Bagley explains he did what he was ” ordered ” to do when it came to past battles.  However he also says that ” he has no remorse “..so the validity of the hatred for each other could be something determined just by ones point of view.  I just need to say that I am trying to actually find cons for this movie, and I have had a few lines typed up but I just keep deleting them.  There aren’t many cons to be had honestly.  I think anyone who watched this movie can agree though that the emperor is pretty annoying.  Even though he doesn’t have very many lines in the movie, the ones that he does say in English…you can barely understand.  No disrespect but I may have a hard time giving my full respect to an Emperor with no physical stature,no battle experience, and  talks the way he does.  If anyone should have been Emperor, its Katsumoto.  Also the fact that Tokyos laws and regualtions got so out of hand and took the death of the Emperors best friend to change them upset me greatly.  Omura was allowed to do whatever he wanted nearly the entire movie with no reprocussions until the end.  But thats just part of what it makes so dramatic..so I can appreciate it some.

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” I belong to the warrior, in who the old ways have joined the new.”

Conclusion:

I have loved this movie from the very first time I watched it.  It shows tradition, history, determination, irony ( very well ), and just how important a Samurai’s way of life really was to them.  Gorgeous landscapes throughout the movie kept me wanting more and more, also finding myself wanting to visit the area sometime in my life.  Hans Zimmer again delivers with such a stellar soundtrack, and as expected he never disappoints. This film has so many good and different attributes all coming together, such as despair, happiness, tragedy, and friendship.  Ken Watanabe shined along side Tom Cruise in this movie, and I’m so glad I have seen him in some movies after this one was made.  I was afraid he would be shackled by only playing a character of this nature, but he has branched out into many different roles.  ” And so the days of the Samurai had ended.  Nations, like men, it is sometimes said, have their own destiny. As for the American Captain, no one knows what became of him.  Some say that he died of his wounds.  Others, that he returned to his own country.  But I like to think that he may have at last found some small measure of peace, that we all seek, and few of us ever find.” -Simon Graham

Rating:

9.0 horribly mispronounced English words from Omura out of 10

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” Perhaps da fwench or de Engwish?  Or any of the other litigations waiting in the next room”

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