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The Last Samurai

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: The Last Samurai

Starring: Tom Cruise, Ken Watanabe
Director: Edward Zwick
Rated: R
RunTime: 144 Minutes
Release Date: December 2003
Genres: Action, Drama, War

*Also starring: Billy Connolly, Tony Goldwyn, William Atherton, Darin Fujimori, Seizo Fukumoto, Masato Harada, Togo Igawa, Sosuke Ikematsu, Shin Koyamada

Review by Susan Granger
4 stars out of 4

Isn't it finally Tom's turn for an Oscar? Tom Cruise scores big in this historical epic set in Japan in the 1870s. Previously nominated for "Jerry Maguire" and "Born on the Fourth of July," Cruise excels once again at playing men engaged in a subtle struggle with their own conscience.

He's Capt. Nathan Algren, a contemptuous Civil War veteran, who is bitter disillusioned with the U.S. Army's postwar campaign against the Indians. When he's recruited by young Emperor Meiji of Japan to train the Imperial army in modern warfare, he accepts - only to be snared by Katsumoto (Ken Watanabe), the regal leader of the Samurai, whose ancient feudal traditions are being eradicated by modernized bureaucrats. Spending a winter in captivity, he learns about Samurai ritualized discipline, dedication to service and spiritual compassion. Above all, he respects their code of honor which forces him to re-examine where his loyalties lie. Tutored by the fierce warrior Ujio (Hiroyuki Sanada), he tenaciously learns to fight alongside them.

Obviously influenced by Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa, co-writer/director Edward Zwick ("Glory," "Courage Under Fire") stages awesome battle scenes, filled with carnage, while meticulously developing the tragic nobility of the exotic personal drama. Kudos to photographer John Toll, production designer Lilly Kilvert, fight coordinator John Powell and composer Hans Zimmer. In supporting roles, Timothy Spall's acerbic, Billy Connolly's irreverent, and Tony Goldwyn's contemptible. Above all, it's time to give underrated Tom Cruise an Academy Award. On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "The Last Samurai" is an exquisite, exciting, powerful 10. One of the best

Copyright 2003 Susan Granger

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