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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

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1.  Steve Rhodes review follows movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review
2.  Susan Granger read the review movie reviewmovie reviewmovie reviewmovie review
3.  Dustin Putman read the review movie reviewmovie review

Review by Steve Rhodes
2½ stars out of 4

THE LAST SAMURAI stars Hollywood's number one A-list actor Tom Cruise as Civil War veteran Captain Woodrow Algren, a washed-up American hero haunted by nightmares of his participation in the Little Big Horn debacle. A drunkard who makes his living hawking firearms like a cheap carnival barker, he is offered several times his salary to go to Japan to teach modern warfare to their soldiers.

This hot-and-cold action picture, set in 1876, is directed by Edward Zwick, who can normally be counted on for fast paced dramas such as THE SIEGE and COURAGE UNDER FIRE. This time he starts the film cutely and dramatically and then lets it bog down in a long, pretentious middle section that sometimes feels more like an endurance contest than a movie.

After being captured by the rebels he is fighting, Algren comes to love and respect his captors and learns how to fight as a samurai, without the use of modern weaponry. The analogies to the training in the ways of the Jedi from THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK are obvious -- only the light saber and Yoda are missing. This snoozer of a middle is interrupted by a big Ninja fight sequence that is simply spectacular. In fact, whenever the movie involves fighting, it soars. The battle armor is incredible, and the costumes and the music are certain choices for Oscar nominations.

After all of his training, including getting beaten repeatedly by sticks, and after having to utter some awkward and pretentious dialog ("I am beset by the ironies of my life."), Algren and his previous enemy, Katsumoto (Ken Watanabe), finally fight together in a battle royal that is truly awesome. This sequence is reminiscent of the large battle segment in GETTYSBURG. THE LAST SAMURAI isn't a bad film, but it could and should have been a great one. If you just wait and see it on video, you can easily edit out the many slack moments.

THE LAST SAMURAI runs way too long at 2:32. The film is in Japanese with English subtitles and in English. It is rated R for "strong violence and battle sequences" and would be acceptable for teenagers.

My son Jeffrey, age 14, said that it was one of the best movies of the year and gave it ****. He was very touched by it and said that it was one of the few movies that made him tear-up. He loved the costumes, the music, the action and the character development. He found the film realistic, and he especially liked the ending.

Copyright 2003 Steve Rhodes

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