tek's rating:

The Last Samurai (R)
IMDb; Rotten Tomatoes; TV Tropes; Warner Bros.; Wikipedia
streaming sites: Amazon; Google Play; iTunes; Movies Anywhere; Vudu; YouTube

Not sure how historically accurate it is, but it's set in 1876-77. I thought it was a pretty good movie, but then I tend to like just about anything involving Japan. Anyway, Nathan Algren (Tom Cruise) is a captain in the United States army, who spends most of his time getting drunk to dull the pain of memories of things he's done in war against the Indians, though most people celebrate him for the things he'd rather forget. And then, a man named Omura, a representative of Japan's Emperor Meiji, comes to recruit Algren to train his country's recently conscripted army. Japan is trying to modernize in all ways, but there are still some samurai, led by a man named Katsumoto (Ken Watanabe), who are holding on to the old ways. Perhaps the most tragic thing about the battles to come is that both the samurai and the new, modern army are completely loyal to the emperor, so the fight actually goes beyond being a civil war. While there are competing ideologies at work, both parties are at least politically on the same side.

In any event, the new army is ordered to attack the samurai, though Algren insists they're not ready yet. And he's right. They're defeated, and Algren is captured. One of the men he killed in the battle was the brother-in-law of Katsumoto, though according to the samurai's code of honor, he believes it was a good death, and doesn't blame Algren. It takes longer, however, for Katsumoto's sister, Taka, who has been widowed by Algren, to forgive the American soldier. Making it more difficult for her, Katsumoto has insisted that Algren stay in her house. While he is a prisoner, he's free to roam around the estate rather freely, as there's no way he could escape.

So, he spends several months among the samurai, and Katsumoto's family, and begins learning their ways, their battle techniques, and their language. Eventually Taka forgives Algren, after he's already become closer to her family, and it seems the two of them begin to develop feelings for each other. After he is finally released, he no longer has any interest in fighting against the samurai, having essentially become one himself. For a time, it seems there is some hope of reconciliation between Katsumoto and Emperor Meiji, but Omura makes that impossible. And eventually Algren is forced to side with the samurai in a major battle against the new army, which has finished its training in his absence, and been provided with many new weapons. And that's about all I want to say, I guess....

period index