The Last Samurai (2003) Movie Review

Catherine BelyakovaJanuary 11, 2020

Captain Nathan Algren (Tom Cruise), a veteran of the battles against the native Indians in American, is bitter and disillusioned. He’s a lost soul, haunted by nightmares, and spends most of the time drunk. When he is offered big money to go to Japan to train the Emperor’s army he says that he doesn’t mind who he is killing; Indians or Samurai warriors it’s all the same to him!

Captain Algren arrives in Japan and meets the young Emperor who is anxious to embrace Western ways and modernize his country. Not everyone is happy with the changes. Katsumoto (Ken Watanabe), a Samurai leader, is opposed to the changes and feels that traditions are being lost. Captain Algren discovers that the men he must train will tackle the warlord Katsumoto but the “army” are disorganized and untrained…


The Last Samurai has been advertised as an epic historical drama but in reality it is more action hero/adventure than drama. As an action/adventure movie it’s brilliant. The big budget treatment allows for great battle scenes and exciting martial arts combat. There’s plenty of hand-to-hand sword fighting and is quite gory in parts as the blades cut, stab and sever!

But the movie isn’t all action. The idea of holding onto old values like honor, in a changing world, is explored. Japan may modernize but can it remember its past as the noble traditions of the Samurai are lost. The Samurai live a life of discipline, sacrifice, courage, and service. Captain Algren seems to have no values but begins to understand and appreciate the Samurai people and the way of life that they represent.

I know there is some silly bits in the movie and it may not be historical accurate but I really enjoyed it. I’m not really a fan of the martial arts movie but I loved the way this movie gives the Samurai warrior an authentic feel and there is a lot more to this movie that battles and fighting. It has also been criticized for being too long but I never felt that it dragged at any stage. There is plenty of funny bits during the “quieter” moments to keep things interesting.

Tom Cruise has more than just the Hollywood smile to offer. He has proved his acting ability in plenty of movies including Born On The Fourth of July, Jerry Maguire, The Firm and A Few Good Men. He puts in an excellent performance again in this movie.

Ken Watanabe plays the Samurai warrior Katsumoto who dedicates his life to the service of the Emperor even though he opposes him. This apparent contradiction is explained when the principles of honor, sacrifice and service are examined. Ken Watanabe portrays an air of nobility that makes his character credible.

Bottom Line: Great action/adventure but it’s also inspiring and thoughtful.

Lasting Thoughts: A people’s values, traditions and heritage should not be lost or forgotten as its country moves forward. honor: sense of honestly and fairness;


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