Yeah you guessed it – it’s that Tom Cruise movie where he learns all about the choppy sword movements of the Samurai and joins them in their last stand.
I will admit, the simple idea of watching a Samurai or Martial Arts movie with Tom Cruise in the lead makes me sick, but it’s actually not too bad…..
Let’s sum it up – Tommy boy plays an American war hero named Nathan, who loves a good drop of the booze. Nathan is hired to teach a Japanese army how to use firearms to fight their enemies but the remaining Samurai who refuse to step into the new world and are fighting for their honor.
After a short battle the newbies are defeated by the Samurai and
Tommy boy Nathan is caught and forced to live in a village and learn the ways of the Samurai – where he changes his view and joins them during their last stand against the gun touting Japanese army.
Ultimately, we see a story of the flashy and undisciplined ‘new’ vs traditional and disciplined ‘old’.
Nathan studies up on the Samurai but remains very detached from their culture until he is immersed in their simple and honorable life after being captured. He sees the strength in their values and finds a little inner peace, and is somewhat converted to the cause as he begins to feel he wants to protect it himself.
This all plays out in a long movie which tells an relatively interesting story that separates the two cultures. In cinematic Samurai fashion we see our heros make their stand to die for what they believe in, fighting to their very deaths. Tom’s character seems to be thrown right into the middle of it, but he seems to be more of a middle man to help bridge the gap between the audience and understanding and learning the culture of the Japanese – even to the point where America comes off a little as the bad guy!
There’s a few nice action sequences and of course one big epic battle toward the end of the film, and even Tommy boys shows off some nice moves! But mostly it is a movie about Japanese and Samurai culture, telling the story of what the last of Samurai had to face when their chapter had ended.
It’s a decent movie but as a martial arts ‘action’ fan I got rather bored, I felt it was boring and drawn out, I did want to see more people getting sliced up. Some more action would be nice but detrimental to the depth of the film – which would have been told much better in a shorter time frame.
However the story told is a thought provoking one and the performances are all solid. The Last Samurai appears to be a cheap American version of a Samurai themed movie at first glance but when watching it you see that it has been put together and told very well.
The picture it paints of the Samurai in their last stand is pretty interesting and you can empathize with the warriors trying to protect their ways, standing up for tradition and the history which made them the men they are, versus simply signing over to cheap and easy death by way of gun. This film demonstrates the value of the man and his skill over the pulling of a trigger.
Would you enjoy this film? If you’re an action junkie – maybe not. If you’re a martial arts fan who appreciates history, traditions and the many concepts and themes behind styles and martial arts itself, then the Last Samurai will be entertaining for you. With high production values and a solid cast of actors it’s a very watchable film.
If the idea of a Hollywood guy like Tom Cruise in the role bothers you (as it would many martial arts fans), just remind yourself that he is there to help explain concepts and ways of the Samurai to the audience, to point out the difference in culture and make the film easier to understand in a natural way.
The film isn’t so much about him as it is told through him, so check it out I say it’s solid!
On Blu Ray –
Region Free (Plays in Any Country)
The Last Samurai [Blu-ray]
On DVD –
Region 1 (US & Canada)
The Last Samurai [Widescreen]
Region 2 (UK, Europe, etc)
The Last Samurai [DVD] 
Region 4 (Australia, New Zealand, etc)
The Last Samurai