The Last Samurai

D: Edward Zwick
Warner Bros. (Edward Zwick, Marshall Herskovitz, Tom Cruise & Paula Wagner)
US 2003
154 mins


W: John Logan, Marshall Herskovitz & Edward Zwick
DP: John Toll
Ed: Steven Rosenblum & Victor du Bois
Mus: Hans Zimmer
PD: Lilly Kilvert
Cos: Ngila Dickson

Tom Cruise (Capt. Nathan Algren), Ken Watanabe (Lord Moritsugu Katsumoto), Timothy Spall (Simon Graham), Tony Goldwyn (Col. Bagley), Hiroyuki Sanada (Ujio)

If you've seen Dances With Wolves (or even Avatar) then the plot development won't come as any surprise at all. Cruise stars as Captain Nathan Algren, a decorated civil war soldier who is hired by the Japanese as a military advisor and to train their soldiers in the impending war against the samurai. He is then kidnapped by them and soon grows admiration for their culture and traditional ways, switching allegiances before a final battle against the men who originally hired him.
Edward Zwick is a bit of a magpie with his direction here, picking bits and pieces from other films of the similar mould (even borrowing a scene from his own 1989 film Glory), but meticulous production and costume design make this a beautiful film to look at. Tom Cruise seems very miscast, but doesn't deliver a bad performance, although he is completely upstaged by Ken Watanabe, as the elder of the samurai.
A decent film, but a 1980 two-part TV series called Shogun did a much better job.     

Ken Watanabe & Tom Cruise in The Last Samurai
Ken Watanabe & Tom Cruise in The Last Samurai