The Last Samurai Edward Zwick

The Last Samurai Edward Zwick
Tom Cruise, the box office draw for The Last Samurai, plays Captain Nathan Algren, a dishonoured Civil War hero enlisted to teach modern warfare techniques to the Japanese army. When he's captured by samurai — the victims of his techniques of modern warfare — he learns how to regain his honour (and finds love) with the help of their leader Katsumoto, the movie's actual last samurai, played by an impressive Ken Watanabe, who here embodies the spirit of the samurai. At two and a half hours, the movie is long, but Edward Zwick is able to keep it engaging by always focusing on character. He also pays a lot of attention to detail, with the staff going to great lengths to make sure the movie is historically accurate. The clothes and buildings were replicated in great detail, often from the original designs, and experts were called in as advisors and sometimes as actors; the swordmaker in the samurai village is actually one of the great swordmakers of Japan who set up a handmade kiln on set. Even Cruise, who is at his best here, trained for eight months to be able to do his own stunts, which helps with realism. The commentary track by Zwick reveals much about the process of making the film and along with the second disc of extras goes to great lengths to emphasise the impressive amount of work that went into making the movie look and feel authentic. Aside from the interviews and the many short featurettes that cover everything from production, costume and weapon design, to the training of the army extras, there's an interesting History Channel documentary that deals with the accusations that the samurai heroes of this Hollywood epic were historically a reactionary group preventing Japan from entering the modern age. In the end, it's a beautiful movie that gives a fine appreciation for Bushido, or the Way of the Samurai. Plus: deleted scenes, interviews with Cruise and Zwick, featurettes, theatrical trailer, and more. (Warner)