The Last Samurai Edward Zwick

The Last Samurai Edward Zwick
The Last Samurai is the third excellent film about Japan to come out of Hollywood this year. But where both Kill Bill and Lost in Translation used Japan's strangeness as a springboard for parody and ridicule, The Last Samurai finds beauty, grace and contradiction. In order to suppress an old-world Samurai uprising, the 1876 Japanese government recruits U.S. Army Captain Nathan Algren (Tom Cruise), who has earned his bars killing natives on the North American frontier. After leading his ill-prepared troops into battle, Algren is captured by the charismatic Samurai leader Katsumoto (Ken Watanabe) and taken to a remote mountain village. At about the halfway mark of this 144-minute epic, the story begins to take the shape of a detailed historical drama. There's a lot to look at here and director Edward Zwick (Glory) gives his characters plenty of room to observe the more understated elements of Japanese culture. But just as the story begins to fall into a sleepy domestic rhythm, a band of bloodthirsty Ninjas spring from the woods and all hell breaks loose. The ensuing battle sequences are as beautiful as they are ferocious. By building his style around the Samurais' focused fighting techniques, Zwick is able to give even the film's larger battles a tight visual framework. The cast is suburb, especially Japanese A-list actors Koyuki (as the love interest) and Watanabe as the last Samurai (if you choose to read Samurai in the singular). And Cruise brings his best post-Magnolia chops to the table as a gifted soldier haunted by a lifetime of warfare. While Hans Zimmer's overdramatic score is distracting in places and the idea of equating honour with violence is a pushed a little too far, The Last Samurai succeeds in all the right places. (Warner)