77 of 86 people found the following review helpful
The last samurai,
However, Edward Zwick's film differs from the Kevin Costner Oscar winner in that the principal character, Lt. Nathan Algren (Cruise) is down on his luck, having become a drunken caricature of his former self, deeply regretful of his actions, who accepts a job as an instructor for an incipient Japanese army that needs to be prepared to fight against the Samurai.
As he arrives to Tokyo he starts training a useless bunch of would-be soldiers who are sent to fight even if they're not ready for it. As a result, the newly formed army gets butchered by the battle experienced Samurai. During that battle, Algren fights bravely and kills one of the highest ranking warriors, getting the interest of the famed Katsumoto, the last great Samurai leader, who orders him captured and brought to his son's village as a prisoner.
Once there, Algren's life is changed forever as he gets to know the real lifestyle of the Samurai and their people. They turn out not to be the savages that the Japanese government makes them out to be. After spending winter with them, Algren "changes sides" and joins the Samurai in fighting the Emperor's army.
The title of the movie tells the final outcome. The Samurai lose the battle. Progress triumphs over tradition. New over old. But Algren's past demons are redeemed by his courageous actions helping the Samurai.
The true worth of this movie is its look. You can definetely see where the budget went (other than Cruise's salary). A whole village was built and the attention to detail is astonishing. The costumes are simply amazing, especially the battle armors. The costume designer is Ngila Dickson, who also worked in Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Also of notice are the battle scenes, which are breathtaking. Very violent, but not gratuitous, they serve the story very well.
As for the acting, Cruise does a fine job, and is slowly but consistently becoming a better actor (even if this particular performance was not nominated for an Academy Award), but the movie belongs to Ken Watanabe (who was indeed nominated) as Katsumoto. His presence demands attention. He is the center of every scene he's in. Koyuki's performance as Taka, Katsumoto's sister and Algren's love interest, should also be noticed.