The Last Samurai
The Last Samurai (2003) – Originally written January 2004
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
From the moment I first heard of this film, I disliked it. I felt the idea of a film like this was hideous, and I felt for it to be staring Tom Cruise, well it was blatantly going to be just a vehicle for his self esteem. Cruise, to put it bluntly, is awful. There are two over rated actors out there who appear in films and have the exact same facial expressions throughout. These actors are Tom Cruise and Keanu Reeves, and I think they ruin a lot of good films.
So, with my dislike for Tom Cruise and my dislike for the idea of this film, I travelled to the cinema to watch this movie, took my seat, and for not the first time, was forced to eat my own words. Truthfully, I think this film is brilliant.
In “The Last Samurai”, Cruise plays Captain Nathan Algren of the United States Army. Hired to teach the Japanese how to use modern warfare technology, Algren, a man with many painful memories, is placed in a battle against the revolutionary Samurai of Japan. Eventually captured, Algren is introduced to Master Katsumoto, played wonderfully by Ken Watanabe, and is slowly shown the way of the Samurai.
Ok, why is it that I enjoyed this film? Looking at the main star, looking at the basic plot, looking at practically everything about it, I should have come out of the cinema in unsurprised disgust. The strange thing is though, that if you get all the bad parts which make up this film, and put them all together, it somehow works. It’s like trying to create Frankenstein’s monster out of a body which had been buried for two years. Ultimately all the parts are rotten, but yet still manage to function. Cruise, whilst I do hate him, performs acceptably with his three facial expressions of smile, tear in eye and grit faced determination. The plot, despite being tacky and slightly over long has depth and quality. Even the blatant cheesyness of it all comes through with flying colours. This film is ultimately, good.
I suppose put under pressure, I could say there are one or two things which are wrong with this film. Billy Connolly’s voice in it is painful to hear and I’m grateful when he leaves the screen. The same is true for Timothy Spall at the beginning, but his voice seems to improve with time. The Emperor of Japan is awkward and infuriating, but I wonder if that’s not how he’s meant to be played. Other than these three characters, and the last ten minutes, though, I really can’t think of much bad to say about this film. So it’ll never win Oscars, watch me be proved wrong here again although I find this unlikely, and most of it is easy no brainer viewing, but for what it’s meant to be, I think it holds up quite well. Definately worth viewing.