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michelle RSS Feed (SAN FRANCISCO, CA United States)

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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Kudos to Tom Cruise as an American last Samurai, December 7, 2003
Before I start with my reveiw,let it be known that I was never a Tom Cruise fan. He is just another pretty face in a long list of Hollywood hunks. Yet I must give Tom my kudos playing the washed up, drunken American soldier who volunteers to live in Japan in the early Meiji era when the whole country was in a big transition to catch up with the Western(Euro) civiliazation in fear that the country may easily colonized, which happend to China and other Asian countries. I studied Japanese history and the character played by Ken Watanabe is loosely based on Saigo Takamori who led the Samurai rebellion in Southern Kushu, Kuwamoto prefecture. Kuwamoto lord was a strong Shogun supporter and held up to fight back the modernization of Japan. There were several Shogun sympathisers scatterd around the country, bur Kuwamoto clan was most well known. In actuality, Takamori joined the Meiji emperor and became one of the most outspoken supporter of the emperor's plan to open the government to the Western world. Knowing history of Japan helps to understand what the director was trying to bring out to the not-so- knowledgeble audience. Tom Cruise did a fine job of portraying an ignorant, cocky post Civil War soldier who ended up in the Samurai culture where only way to live was by Bushido. The movie is all Tom Cruise which is expectd. This is a Hollywood movie with a matinee idol who has star power to attract audience so that the producers will benefit the mega bucks. Do not expect any Kurosawa from this movie. However the movie is not totally without some messages. A similarity between the American Indians and Samurais in which they were victims of the American conquering and destroying cultures foreign to them. In Aldren's mind, the American Indians and Samurais had a common thread; honor and loyalty to their tribes, and lived by their unbreakable warriors code. To break the code meant dishonor to their ancestors. Death to them was never an option. Some reviewers are critical of plot shallowness, cliches, stereo typical portrayals of Japanese women and of course,a handsome white male among the not so handsome natives. Well this is Tom Cruise's film after all. A handsome white Samurai was very attractive even those who never seen them before. Asian countries seem to worship handsome white actors anyway. Tom's ability to master the Samurai swordsmanship in the movie is just as good as Japanese actors. Sutle performance by Koyuki(Taka)is so true to the era when the women were second class citizens and did not have any rights of their own. The women were not permitted to speak unless told to do so by husbands. Bushido was a way of Samurai's life. Takamori's desire to write a perfect poem is contrast to the way Samurai had to live everyday. Maybe that is why the Japanese culture is very Zen like, existential life which the Westerners are not totally in comprehension. I strongly recommend the movie, and enjoy it for what it offers to the eyes and senses.


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More than expected from the preview---very touching comedy!, December 28, 2002
When I came out of the theatre, my eyes were moist with tears. This movie was supposedly a comedy for the Christmas holidays yet it touched deeply those who came from so-called "dysfunctional" family(statisacally more than a half of the American families) with the hurt and disappointments. The movie revolves around the X-mas time with which most of us associate the happy times of our lives, yet for some, those were the painful and sad times. The superb performance of Christopher Walken as the father of Frank, Jr. (played by DiCaprio) was very moving and certainly deserves an Ocscar contention. DiCaprio fits the role perfectly with his boyish charm on the screen. The director Spielberg brought more than a light hearted comedy which can vanish intantly after the movie, and this one will stay with me (and other viewers,I hope) for a long time.


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