The Last Samurai was an excellent movie. Normally, I donít care for Tom Cruise, or the Japanese culture, but I think the stars aligned just right. I have to say that the thing that drew to this movie was that it was both epic, and the only things halfway decent playing that I hadnít already seen. Anyhow, Iíll explain why I liked the movie.
The story of the Last Samurai was both epic, and emotionally effective. However, one of the interesting things about the movie was that it stayed so focused on the characters. I would say in most epic movies, there are only a hand full of real characters, the rest of the cast are essentially props. And, while that is somewhat true hear, I feel that you gain at least some attachment with almost all of the characters.
The battles were also quite awesome. The scale was big for this type of movie (though I think it will look more like a small skirmish compared to Return of the King). The battles pull no punches and it is quite visceral and somewhat shocking at moments. The whole thing was very satisfying.
The cinematography was also quite enjoyable, verdant if you will. I wonít try to explain it here. Youíll just have to go see it.
The film is entirely about the clash between the old ways (samurai) and the new ways (go America!). Ironically, history makes the results utterly predictable: six decades later, ďmodernĒ Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. But, American spirit pervailed, and we drop ďthe bomb.Ē But, I have already jumped to far ahead! Letís go back to the 1870ís. The story basically focused on the samurai who are grossly outnumbered fighting for a cause they truly believe in. Stories like these are always well received, even back in the days of Greece, particularly the battle of Thermopylae, which is strongly referenced in the movie. I think this underlying motivation gives the movie much of itís passion, and drive. Itís all about the grand storytelling, and the underdog fighting for victory.
That Last Samurai will likely end up on my top ten list for the year. But, whether or not it wins any awards, well that is anyoneís guess. The Academy is officially dead to me. So, I guess it does not really matter.