The Last Samurai

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Set in the late 1870s, this epic film depicts the incipient modernization of Japan, the island nation evolving past a feudal society, symbolized by the eradication of the Samurai way of life. The latest fare from director Edward Zick sees Cruise play Nathan Algren, a drunken military veteran who is brought in by the Japanese imperial powers to train the emperor’s troops to flush out the last of the Samurai. The historical authenticity is occasionally marred by requisite Hollywood chintz: Cruise practises some sort of Tae Kwon Do on a ridge with a fiery sunset as a backdrop. The battle scenes, however, are impressive, and the smaller skirmishes well choreographed and realistically graphic. During a fracas between the small Imperial force and the Samurai, Algren is captured by the rebel army. But lgren’s life is spared by Katsumoto, most feared of warlords (Ken Wanatabe), for his unflinching courage in the face of death, and during his captivity he is converted to the Samurai’s sacred code of honour and discipline. So Cruise goes native. He plays baseball and seduces the gorgeous Taka, Matsumoto’s sister-in-law, whose husband he had previously speared through the neck. Predictably Algren and Matsumoto become friends, following a Ninja assassination attempt on the Samurai leader. Cruise does look good in his kimono, but is unable to match the stature and presence of Wanatabe. Somehow, taking Cruise seriously as a bornagain philosopher action hero of the east is too tall an order.Archive: 0th week HT 2004

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