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Movie Review: The Last Samurai (2003) 
9th-May-2005 12:04 am
So is HE the Last Samurai, or is it the actual Japanese dude?
The Last Samurai (2003)

Starring: Tom Cruise, Timothy Spall, Ken Watanabe, Billy Connolly, Tony Goldwyn, Hiroyuki Sanada, Koyuki

Directed By: Edward Zwick

Before I get into the review, I must state this point very clearly: I like Tom Cruise movies. Or, at least, post-Far and Away Tom Cruise movies (as I've missed a lot of his big-time 80's films). So to those of you who are apt to immediately reject a film based on its Tom Cruise involvement, this review won't be for you.

It's not even so much that I like Tom Cruise, because I usually don't really care about actors one way or another. But since he's the biggest movie star in the world, he gets to choose the best big projects in Hollywood, meaning that movies that he's in have a good chance at being entertaining, at the very least.

The Last Samurai is very entertaining (albeit languid at points, sometimes to the point of detriment). It is a beautifully-shot movie of epic scope, with some some very impressive battle scenes and convincing acting from Cruise,  and co-stars Ken Watanabe, Billy Connolly, Koyuki, and Hiroyuki Sanada. Watanabe earned himself an Oscar nomination for Best Actor in a Supporting Role for his portrayal of the samurai Katsumoto, putting him in the long line of Tom Cruise co-stars to find themselves nominated for Oscars. He earned it, as Katsumoto is easily the best part of the film (well, either that, or the battle scenes).

In terms of story, the film is easily "Dances with Samurai". The style is also very reminiscent of director Edward Zwick's earlier film Legends of the Fall and very much influenced by the works of Kurosawa (I'll leave the discussion of how well it holds up to Kurosawa to people more qualified than me. For me, it doesn't matter whether or not The Last Samurai is as good as earlier movies, I think it's pretty good on its own). Like Dancing With Wolves, Samurai attempts to tell the story of another culture through the eyes of a white American observer (Cruise). And if that offends you, or comes of as condescending, well, there's nothing I can tell you. It's the choice the film made, there's no getting around it, so if it bothers you than you'll hate this movie.

If you can get past that, and the fact that it's a Tom Cruise movie, then you might be able to find yourself enjoying an entertaining movie, beautifully filmed, with epic battles and solid acting. However, the movie isn't as good or epic as it tries so hard to be. Some of the dialogue falls flat, the themes of the movie aren't at all subtle, and the ending is very Hollywood. In short, it's a very good movie disguised as a great movie.


9th-May-2005 07:17 am (UTC)
Why don't people like Tom Cruise? I've been wondering this for awhile.
9th-May-2005 07:38 am (UTC)
Beats me. I could understand back in the Top Gun/Days of Thunder boy-toy days, but now? I guess you'd have to ask people who don't like him.
9th-May-2005 07:39 am (UTC)
I'm sure whatever answer they give me will piss me off. Ever since Jerry Maguire I have just loved him.
9th-May-2005 07:44 am (UTC)
Yeah, that's where he won me over too. The only movie of his I haven't seen since Days of Thunder (which I've also never seen) is Magnolia.
9th-May-2005 08:20 am (UTC)
Personally, I can't believe this entry has near 20 comments, whilst the awesomeness that is the Oregon Trail review has FOUR! Buncha savages in this community.
9th-May-2005 08:34 am (UTC)
And you're pretty much to blame.
9th-May-2005 10:16 am (UTC)
[Enters Room]

I entered here, and I was expecting a huge war about the why people think Tom Cruise is great, or why they think he sucks, and I get this!!!!

[Goes back to the topic]

I love Tom Cruise and the great thing about Cruise is he'll take chances and has done a wide variety of different solid work with top directors. He is not as naturally talented as Robert De Niro or Marlon Brando, but he picks great work to be in and works very hard at it since he really cares about being in quality work. The main reason a lot of people find to hate Tom Cruise is the "pretty boy" argument, and the most silly reason why some people hate Tom Cruise is because of him being involved in scientology, and I think it is pretty lame that they hate him based on his beliefs. As it was said in this thread earlier his performance in P.T. Anderson's Magnolia as Frank T.J. Mackey was just awesome and he stands out from a great cast of top actors. But I think I might prefer his work in Oliver Stone's Born on the Fourth of July, the way his character changed from how he started at the beginning of the film to the way it turned out in the last hour is just fantastic. Since Cruise has worked with basically all the top directors of the last 20 years, I've been dreaming that he eventually gets to work with Wes Anderson and Quentin Tarantino. Btw, I will definately see War of the Worlds since I loved the last time Spielberg & Cruise teamed up together and I still gotta watch The Last Samurai & Collateral.
9th-May-2005 10:28 am (UTC)
I entered here, and I was expecting a huge war about the why people think Tom Cruise is great, or why they think he sucks, and I get this!!!!

Good call. Given my lead-in, that would seem to explain the comment total. Instead, it's just silly T5R madness.

I blame Skooch.
9th-May-2005 03:23 pm (UTC)
I used to be sick of Cruise from all his boy-toy fame, and I was kind of sick seeing him on all the talk shows because you can't hear anything with the teen girls screaming the whole time, but that doesn't make his acting any worse. I think Cruise is an alright guy, I haven't seen many of his films (then again, I'm not one of the big movie people around here), but I've seen more good than bad.
9th-May-2005 03:19 pm (UTC)
Who reviewed Oregon Trail? I could talk for days about that stuff.
10th-May-2005 06:35 am (UTC)
twistedyouth did. It should still be accessible on the main page.
9th-May-2005 03:22 pm (UTC)
I'd like to further digress from the Tom Cruise topic and propose the "Judgemental Group" for T5R. Right now the Judgemental holder is Judgemental Andy, but Skooch proposes it switches to me and I become Judgemental Mikey. Why can't we share the Judgemental title? We can be the Judgemental Duo, and if more people join it would only lead to better things... such as trashing movies like THE NOTE... I mean ... very deep and insightful conversations where we truly respect others' opinions, only in a judgemental way.

This is going nowhere fast.
10th-May-2005 03:02 am (UTC)
This is going nowhere fast.

Let's have some General Foods International Coffee and forget about the whole thing.
10th-May-2005 06:35 am (UTC)
Are you proposing a ... wait for it... Judgement Day?
10th-May-2005 07:44 pm (UTC)
Fetch my drumset.
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