Thursday, October 23, 2008

Last Samurai

Rating : 9/10
Running Time : 154 Minutes
Release Date : December 2003
Director & co-writer : Edward Zwick; Writer : John Logan; Music : Hans Zimmer
Starring : Tom Cruise, Ken Watanabe, Koyuki, Masato Harada, Bill Connolly

I’d forgotten what epics were like – and what a lovely way to remember. This one is a true epic ! It beautifully depicts the clash between the old values and the modernists, something which can be true of India even today, without really taking sides. It also shows how, unfortunately, humans have chosen to direct their ingenuity to make weapons which can kill more people, faster ! And it does all this by building characters we truly start to care for – people we understand and feel their pain or their confusion.

The Last Samurai traces the journey of disenchanted, alcohol swilling Nathan Algren, who once was forced by his superiors to fire at a village of Indian women and children and since then has always lived with the nightmares of that day. One of those superiors gets him a job training the Japanese Emperor’s army (mostly peasants) as they struggle to fight a Samurai group, led by Katsumoto, which still wants to live by the Samurai code & the old ways while the young emperor is fascinated by all things western. During the first battle, a combination of luck and quick thinking results in Algren being taken prisoner by the Samurai vs being killed. And so begins a new journey as both Katsumoto and Aigren learn about each other, their values, their methods etc. And it leads to a very impressive ending as we mourn the needless loss of life, the end of an era.

The movie scores on all fronts – whether its action sequences, emotional scenes or even just beautiful shots which showcase the beauty of the Orient. The acting is nothing short of sensational. Tom Cruise has this streak in him of coming up with excellent performances while seeming to remain deadpan for most of the film (Rainman and Collateral come to mind). Ken Watanabe looks & acts the part of the brave Samurai, appreciating the beauty of battles and of cherry blossoms in almost the same breath. The whole relationship between Tom Cruise and Koyuki’s kids is beautifully shown, very realistic, nothing over the top. And Koyuki, in a very difficult role, comes through unscathed.

This is a tour-de-force. The movie casts a spell on you, transports you to another time, makes you weep and smile along with the protagonists. Again, I’ve had it in my collection for not less than 3 years but finally saw it only this week. All I can say is that I regret the delay deeply, as something so beautiful could've been a part of me for longer.


Prashant Misra said...

You missed it in the hall. I had seen this movie in Bangalore on 70mm. There are scenes that stick to you for a very long specifically is the first attack by the Samurais. The entire sequence of the din building up and the shadows becoming clearer through the deep blue mist…it makes you come to the edge of the seat…totally agree with you on all counts.

Anonymous said...

I love the last battle sequnce in the movie when the japanese imperial army attacks the samurai with their automatic machine guns and you see the samurai fall. The last time, I felt those goosebumps was while watching Gandhi- The sequence where the Satyagrahis go row by row and are beaten down by the lathi weiding policemen.

Vikas said...

oh this movie is incredible !
definately one for the collection.. i just couldnt get over the whole lady taking care of the killer of her husband situation.. i mean it was deeply moving..

the detail was immaculate..
and u know it makes you even more intrigued by the mysterious samurai.. i actually remember googling all about them.. fantastic..fantabulous..

couldnt agree with your last paragraph more.. it made me smile and weep with the protragnists.. i think i need to watch it again tonight!!

Anonymous said...

U shud probably see Vanilla Sky (remake of Aber Los Ojos) if u wanna see a better Tom Cruise movie. Everytime I see that movie, I cry coz of the sheet brilliance of the story.