Neil Young’s Film Lounge – The Last Samurai



USA 2003 : Edward ZWICK : 154 mins

1876: American ex-soldier Nathan Algren (Tom Cruise) is hired by the Japanese to train their army in modern fighting techniques. The young Emperor Meiji (Shichinosuke Nakamura#) wants to open up Japan to western influences but Samurai forces led by Katsumoto (Ken Watanabe) aren’t convinced, leading to civil war. When Algren is captured by the Samurai after a disastrous skirmish, he’s fascinated by the culture he discovers in Katsumotos rural village. Slowly learning the ways of the Samurai, Algren ponders his own role in the looming battle between the new and old Japan

Minuses: yet more period-costume Oscar bait in overlong, wannabe-epic Cold Mountain vein; Cruises raspy Clint Eastwood voice and generally unconvincing performance (hes hopeless as a drunk); joke Irish accent from Billy Connolly; skimpy characterisation among supporting roles, including some cardboard villains; laughably implausible outcome of final battle. Pluses: Connollys swift demise; Timothy Spall shouting in Japanese; scowling/brooding turn of convincing ferocity from Watanabe; rousing, well-integrated combat sequences. Major saving grace: in current political climate, radical twist of have heroic American central character turn against his own Army/Government!

5th January, 2004
(seen same day : UCI, MetroCentre, Gateshead)

click here for Nathan Algrens Blues, Neils essay on The Last Samurai

# in accordance with the films end titles, all Japanese names in this review are presented western-style, with the family-name given second.

by Neil Young