The Last Samurai [Blu-Ray] Edward Zwick

The Last Samurai [Blu-Ray] Edward Zwick
Sort of a broad, defining characteristic of auteur theory is that directors essentially make the same movie over-and-over again, looking to perfect their key message or ostensible worldview. Considering that Last Samurai director Edward Zwick has titles such as Glory, Courage Under Fire, Defiance, Blood Diamond and The Siege under his belt, this assertion doesn't seem particularly far-fetched. All of these films draw on themes of male honour, courage and integrity in revolutionary times, often taking characters in the midst of existential crises and giving them purpose and identity through battle and appreciation of another way of life. Such is the case with Samurai, wherein a despondent Nathan Algren (Tom Cruise) struggles morally with his involvement in the slaughter of North American indigenous peoples (something we now commemorate by eating pumpkin pie and stuffing). Hired by the Japanese Imperial Army to help guide their troops into the modern age, ostensibly kicking the old way of life — the way of the Samurai — to the curb, the droopy Yank inadvertently winds up living with the enemy after his initial battle fails. Here he learns of a new, ancient way of life, discovering purpose and worldly beauty just as the solipsism of war and Western progress wipes it away. While a tad hypocritical in its sweeping embrace of the very righteousness and mass ritual that cause wars to begin with, there is no denying the epic scale and sheer impressiveness of Zwick's larger-than-life ode to manhood. The battles are brutal and extensive, featuring the choreography of hundreds, while set designs, costumes and cinematography create a sense of 19th Century Japan come to life, filtered through a passionate eye. As viewed on Blu-Ray, it represents the grandiose nature of classic Hollywood munificently, boasting a variety of special features that provide historical context and artistic insight to the experience. In addition to the feature-length commentary track with Edward Zwick, there are supplements with the costume designer, the art director and Tom Cruise, which elaborate on the aesthetic and cognitive motivations behind the scenes. The most interesting of the many features is a History Channel special where Japan's history is examined in relation to the film's narrative. (Warner)