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Overall Rating
4.09

Awesome52.73%
Worth A Look: 23.83%
Average: 8.98%
Pretty Bad: 8.98%
Total Crap: 5.47%

11 reviews, 190 user ratings


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Last Samurai, The
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by Scott Weinberg

"Similar in many ways to Dances with Wolves...only much better"
5 stars

Of course the whole "stranger in a strange land who learns to embrace and eventually defend his newly adopted homeland" concept is not a particularly new or unique one. Kevin Costner won a boatload of Oscars for his politically topical "Dances with Wolves" several years back, and Edward Zwick told the tale in his fantastic Civil War movie "Glory". So learning that similar ground is covered once again in Zwick's "The Last Samurai" may be a bit disappointing to moviegoers looking for something different from their "fictionally historical action epic" - but it shouldn't. "The Last Samurai" is a majestic and rousing adventure and it's easily one of this year's best "Grown-Ups" movies.

Sometimes a film needn't be wholly original to earn praise. In Modern Hollywood, it's impressive enough when a group of filmmakers can polish off a well-traveled plotline and still succeed thanks to the age-old tools of the trade: a smart screenplay, a handful of excellent acting performances, and a director fully confident that he can breathe some new life into a potentially familiar tale.

Quietly and without all that much attention, director Edward Zwick has become the leading supplier of quality epics and intelligent action, able to produce films that incite emotion without overt manipulation and action sequences that succeed because of the strength of the characters and not the indulgence of explosions.

The year is 1876 and war hero Nathan Algren has fallen on rough times. Wholly reliant on alcohol to soothe his battlefield scars, Algren has become a merchandising tool for a gun manufacturer. Wallowing in his drunkenness and haunted by the atrocious acts he's committed in battle, Algren earns a chance at redemption...or, at the very least, a paid vacation very far away from the U.S.

It seems that the Japanese government is finally gearing up to join the modern world, and their goal is to hire warfare experts from around the globe in an effort to rid the Japanese countryside of the last remaining Samurai warriors. That's not to say that the Samurai are necessarily the "villains", but that they're a relic of the old-school ways that the current regime would like to see extinct.

Although initially hired to help defeat the Samurai scourge, Algren is promptly defeated in battle and taken as prisoner by the very cadre he's been hired to help exterminate. By this point, you clearly know where the movie's headed: Algren becomes enamored with the Samurai and their codes of honor and before too long must choose which side he'll be fighting for: the old-fangled honor or the unstoppably modern.

So the backbone of the narrative is somewhat familiar, yet very few films have bothered to tell a respectable story about who the Samurai actually were. So this new setting affords us a new sort of warrior, and Zwick's film revels in its lush Japanese locales, its attitudes and (most excitingly) its method of battle.

Label The Last Samurai "a Tom Cruise" flick and you'll be missing out. Sure, the mega-star looks great (even when bloodied and nasty) and gets to assume a cocksure heroism at just about every turn...but damn if Cruise doesn't actually deliver one his best performances to date. In most of his films, one feels that they're seeing "Tom Cruise, lawyer" or "Tom Cruise, sensitive sports agent," whereas here the guy actually disappears into the role. Or he comes as close to disappearing as the world's most popular movie star actually can.

Cruise acquits himself exceedingly well, but the strength of The Last Samurai (no, not the battle scenes; I'm getting to those) lies in its supporting cast. Colorful character actors like Timothy Spall, William Atherton, Billy Connolly and (especially) Tony Goldwyn capably buoy any dialogue scene that doesn't have Tom Cruise as its center of attention...and then there's the astoundingly commanding performance of Ken Watanabe. As the deeply honorable leader of the Samurai clan, Watanabe starts out as a stone-faced adversary and slowly warms into a confused and entirely sympathetic warrior who feels betrayed by his country's sudden disdain for tradition. It may be a long shot, but you'll hear some loud cheering from my corner of the globe should Watanabe earn himself an Oscar nomination for his work here.

So yes: The Last Samurai is an epic both involving to the brain and dazzling to the eyes, laden with excellent performances and featuring a screenplay that skirts familiarity and offers a compelling tale. That's all fine and good. But what about the ACTION? Sure, drama can do a whole lot...but people like big flashy battle sequences, clanging sword-fights and battlefield heroics.

This movie's got a whole lot of that stuff. A catalog of the individual action bits is entirely unnecessary; suffice to say that the second and third act of The Last Samurai are laden with enough "good stuff" to fill the next two Jerry Bruckheimer movies. (Only this one has characters with some depth.) There's the "ooh, that was neat" sort of action, the "whoa, that's huge" sort of spectacle, and (most importantly) the "oh no" sort of drama that only occurs in war epics with sincere hearts.

And that's why The Last Samurai succeeds; it's sincere and respectful to its subject matter while delivering a rousing adventure tale...wrapped up in that comfy old Redemption Movie we all love so much.

And the extensive battles are gonna blow you away.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=8374&reviewer=128
originally posted: 12/05/03 16:35:31
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User Comments

9/14/17 morris campbell boring imho 1 stars
2/18/16 Richard Pierro Outstanding 5 stars
11/17/15 A Korean Ridiculous. The Imperial troopers had a year to train, but can'take hit a guy with a bow an 2 stars
12/30/11 Jeff Wilder Formulaic in spots. But still worthy. Better than Dances With Wolves. 4 stars
6/02/11 Bethany Pairitz Great great great movie 5 stars
1/24/11 Ziman One of the best reviews I have read. Thank you very much; I do share your thoughts about it 1 stars
1/11/11 DanRiaz Fantastic film, very moving in parts - highly recommended - ignore any bad reviews! 5 stars
5/14/10 Mamady Nice movie mayng 4 stars
4/10/10 David Very Moving, A Fantastic movie. 5 stars
3/16/10 PAUL SHORTT SPECTACULAR, SATISFYING EPIC 3 stars
6/08/09 the dork knight Liked it better when it was Dances With Wolves. 4 stars
3/11/09 Jimmy Awesome! Action scenes were right on-point, too. Check it out! 5 stars
2/05/09 Faraz J Awesome. Worthy of a repeat. 5 stars
1/27/09 LYNDON DOWLING KEN WANNABE AND HIS SAMURI, AWSOME ACTING , AWSOME FILM. KEN AND TOM DID THEAR OWN STUNTS. 5 stars
10/25/08 Gloria D. Great scenes, I really liked this film 4 stars
10/08/08 Shaun Wallner I really enjoyed this film. 5 stars
9/04/08 Rachel Better than expected, but still do not buy Tommy Cruise as a Samurai warrior. 4 stars
8/28/08 michael thomas excellent movie loved it enough to see it 2 times in the theater and even bought the dvd 5 stars
7/04/08 Alex Thorne A Tom Cruise film i actually like!. a wonderful, soulful film 5 stars
5/14/08 daveyt despite my better judgement on what's 'good' I love it...! 5 stars
3/29/08 Pamela White Wonderful redeeming of a person in spite of himself 5 stars
6/12/07 al smith a true epic in every sense of the word should have won loads of oscars 5 stars
2/07/07 AJ Muller Spectacular. Thrilling action and honest emotion make for a true epic. 5 stars
12/13/06 MP Bartley An ego trip for Cruise, and too self-important, but still packs an epic zing and punch. 4 stars
6/18/06 R.W.Welch Oriental actioner has fine camera work tho ending is too Hollywood. 4 stars
5/12/06 ES I wish I lived in that time and in that place 5 stars
3/27/06 Monster W. Kung A piece of crap! 2 stars
2/21/06 Agent Sands Beautiful. 5 stars
12/15/05 Rey Emmanuel "Paloy" A. Dabatian It Is soooooooooo GOOd 5 stars
11/22/05 Kurtis J. Beard Epic albeit contrived. Swept me away. Just don't think too hard. 4 stars
11/16/05 cooler I loved it.Epic music and a backdrop to some of the most spectacular battles ever filmed. 5 stars
11/15/05 Quigley a very violent movie, but well acted & well made. Cruise wasn't all bad; fighting was cool 5 stars
10/07/05 Wisamane wow this movie was incredible, Very Creative Story it will blow your mind to shit!!! 5 stars
9/20/05 Jonathon Holmes the best film of 2003 5 stars
9/08/05 Ric A few over-the-top moments ring false, but it's an otherwise rousing battle epic. 5 stars
8/23/05 loscemo I liked it but didn't love it. The buddy-buddy ending felt too hollywood to me. 3 stars
8/21/05 chris hagopian It was emotional, with excellent acting 4 stars
8/20/05 Carolyn Rathburn It was a good movie, not really what I had expected 4 stars
8/20/05 Monster W. Kung An awful story, full of cliches, with decent cinematography. 2 stars
8/19/05 Honor above Lies A fine film with some worthwhile themes and thoughts, America being it's usual stupid self 4 stars
8/18/05 ES Ken Watanabe rules, this movie was definately better than I would have thought 5 stars
8/03/05 ALDO Cruise sucks in this one. Overdone. 2 stars
7/29/05 love very american ending.The only surviving samurai is not Japanese but American!Hello!!! 4 stars
7/26/05 Edward Aizen As always, Tom Cruise prevails...honor in death, enough said 5 stars
7/09/05 Moctezuma A great one 5 stars
7/06/05 Pinkline Jones Spoilt by Shinkansen in background 3 stars
6/08/05 JD awesome movie, very enjoyable. 5 stars
5/11/05 Simon Beautifully representative of much of what I've come to believe. 5 stars
4/28/05 Quigley a very good story that has many thoughtful elements to it. Cruise does surprisingly good 4 stars
4/12/05 Ronin Tom using katanas with skill, not very realistic. Fortunately there is more than that. 4 stars
3/26/05 Denise very good 5 stars
3/02/05 simon buxton breathtaking. ken wantanabe made it a great epic 5 stars
2/24/05 Dusty Johnson I liked the action but not as good as the miniseries. 4 stars
2/12/05 Aimee Shelton The acting was really good in this film. Which is saying a lot for most Cruise movies! 4 stars
2/12/05 J. Elaine Greenup Very interesting 4 stars
2/11/05 Sharon Davis Pretty good 4 stars
2/09/05 Lisa Jochelson It was better than I thought it would be. I enjoyed it. 4 stars
2/08/05 Richard Linxwiler One of the best movies Tom Cruise has made. 5 stars
2/04/05 Tanya Grays it was an okay movie but not realistic about the Japanese 3 stars
2/03/05 Kent B. On the fence. I am not sure if I liked it or not. 3 stars
2/02/05 Joe Kolarz Great movie, Tom Cruise is awesome 5 stars
2/02/05 Alice Colwell I don't like Tom Cruise, but have to admit I rerally liked this movie 5 stars
2/01/05 Danita Berg Freaking hated this movie. Boooooring. 2 stars
2/01/05 Christy Harris 2 Thumbs up! 4 stars
2/01/05 bongeezer One white guy proves to be a better samurai than all Japanese? 2 stars
2/01/05 Lynda Eby Cruise was more than just a pretty face in this one. 4 stars
2/01/05 Andrea Haresign YAAAWWWN 2 stars
1/30/05 Charlene Javier Except for Tom, the movie's fine... 4 stars
1/30/05 Frank Tells good movie 4 stars
1/30/05 Caroline The relationship was stagnant... maybe it was a cultural leap, but I didn't get it. 3 stars
1/30/05 Christine Fidance Excellent movie and Tom Cruise was exceptional in it 5 stars
1/29/05 DONNA LONGWORTH I REALLY LIKED THIS MOVIE! 4 stars
1/29/05 Carolyn Rathburn While this film lost my attention somewhere in the middle, the ending brought you back. 4 stars
1/13/05 Aaron Brown One of the best movies I have ever seen because of its emotion, screenplay, and dialogue. 5 stars
12/21/04 Ryan Impressive movie 5 stars
12/05/04 Last samarai owns But dont thinks it owns rotk EE that is better,but LS STILL OWNAGE 5 stars
11/11/04 Hilary Adamson C'mon Scott Weinberg. DANCES WITH WOLVES is a plea for peace. This celebrates a bloodbath! 2 stars
8/21/04 Daveman Watchable but very silly and not particularly interesting. 3 stars
8/10/04 Jeff Needed a little more graphic realism, but for a period piece, nicely done. 5 stars
8/07/04 ALDO Great FILM...GO WATCH IT....What more can i say 5 stars
7/29/04 Dylan Smith The Last Samurai was the best movie. 5 stars
7/14/04 Graham Shallow, uninteresting, mediocre action, no period detail, well-acted. 2 stars
7/07/04 Shams Huque Superb film! 5 stars
7/04/04 Kai Well told story merged with powerfull music !! 5 stars
7/01/04 Piz A modern day Dances With Wolves. Well-shot, can get slow at times. 4 stars
6/19/04 Denise Duspiva cruise is great 5 stars
6/17/04 P toya Political correctness kissing a brutal feudal miltary culture. Nice sword play. 1 stars
6/08/04 Ron Miller Cruise was great; fantastic ending, great fight scenes! 4 stars
6/06/04 Monster W. Kung Really not that great; aims high, but fails. 3 stars
5/30/04 Frazier A well told story about a disappearing culture, a powerful epict. 5 stars
5/26/04 Mitch A bit cliched and overwrought, but not bad all in all. 4 stars
5/22/04 DWIKA MAHENDRA THIS FILM IS THE MOST GREATFULL THAN THE OTHER TOMS FILM 5 stars
5/16/04 Peter Williams Great movie, if not for Return of the King this was the best movie in 2003. 5 stars
5/06/04 Diane Watson Apart from Tom Cruise who appeared in almost every scene, and somehow manages to survive wh 5 stars
5/03/04 breremarer Great movie! Tome Cruise+Japan=epic 5 stars
5/01/04 Marisa Monroe One of the worst films I've seen in sometime. Cruise makes a laughable samurai. Skip it. 2 stars
4/23/04 Elena The film was well done, not inaccurate, but just WHY Tom Cruise??? 4 stars
4/06/04 Agent Sands Fuck the Cruise-haters. This flick could've starred Jim Breuer & still kicked major ass. 5 stars
3/27/04 qemm Perfect acting and scenes. Everything seems very authentic. Superb movie. 5 stars
3/23/04 Bikramjit Certainly one of the best movies in recent times 5 stars
3/18/04 Quienietra Dumantravska Those Samurai forces charge forth on pink horses! 2 stars
3/13/04 atreida beautiful movie with great cast 5 stars
3/09/04 Blaine Holloway best film of 2003, yes, better than return of the king 5 stars
2/26/04 Troy Butler Not quite five stars, ... but very impressive nonetheless!!! 4 stars
2/25/04 Soulis profound, well acted, amazing scenes 5 stars
2/21/04 Denise Duspiva Great 5 stars
2/18/04 Caiphn I don't understand what movie an individual could ever enjoy to think that this 'sucked'. 5 stars
2/12/04 Obi Wan Great movie...quickly became one of my favorites...four trips to the theatre & waitin 4 DVD 5 stars
2/08/04 Gretchen Seitz Insists on having bloodbath kill thousands when title character kills self either way. Why? 2 stars
2/08/04 ladeela definitely better than expected, its great, EVEN tom cruis was good 5 stars
2/03/04 Psycho_Gunman History aside. It's about Samurais and Bushido simplified. 5 stars
2/02/04 rron its very good film 5 stars
1/31/04 Gookkuu I think if you have some knowledge about Japan's history ,you will enjoy with it more!!! 5 stars
1/30/04 Jonathan Clark This is the best movie i have ever seen. It has become my favorite movie of all time. 5 stars
1/29/04 sumixam Great except when TC spoke some very corny lines 4 stars
1/28/04 Mark Parlato Trigona Speechless - This is an awe inspiring movie 5 stars
1/23/04 Paul It is ther best goddamn movie i have ever seen...i think. 5 stars
1/23/04 JamesVG Seven Samurai is better, but this was still great. 5 stars
1/20/04 Af Harrison sucks BIG time 1 stars
1/19/04 C P Hung I enjoyed it and both Tom Cruise & Watanable are excellent. 5 stars
1/19/04 Tini Superb 5 stars
1/18/04 Flip I loved this movie! Even though it is not historicacly acurate. I as a person strive to liv 5 stars
1/16/04 gloria great movie, intriguing, great actors. 5 stars
1/16/04 Chance Great epic type movie 5 stars
1/15/04 malcolm a little melodramatic but gorgeous overall 5 stars
1/15/04 Betty White Overblown, overplotted action flick with Cruise giving a phone-in performance. 1 stars
1/14/04 Horacio Offensive Like saying a foreigner was responsible for Brazil wining the 1970 world cup. 1 stars
1/13/04 Steve Great 5 stars
1/12/04 (none) A wonderful and film. Great performance by Watanabe. 5 stars
1/11/04 Chopper3 Just another 'join-the-dots' hollywood number, completely predictable and forgetable. 1 stars
1/10/04 John Sellin How much longer will we have to endure this continual re-discovery of Americanism. 1 stars
1/10/04 Shadaan Felfeli I loved the film. Its very Zen and Very Beautiful. 5 stars
1/10/04 Daniel Barf! American saves Samourai tradition?Ha ha. Effects? Hey I saw dinosaurs on screen once. 3 stars
1/08/04 KICK ASS OR DONT COME HOME! looks like tom is goin home then ;) 5 stars
1/07/04 Chance Excellent. 5 stars
1/05/04 jason moving 5 stars
1/05/04 Patrick with a Brain Name this movie something else, so people won't confuse it with history. It didn't happen. 2 stars
1/03/04 A F Why Cruise? It would have been nice to see him decapitated. 4 stars
1/01/04 Mattie G Cruise pulls it off. Great film. Has a bit of everything. 5 stars
1/01/04 Obi Wan Watching it a 3rd time has reaffirmed that this is a 5 Star movie still!!! 5 stars
12/31/03 Maureen Flipping Great 5 stars
12/30/03 Angolmois Contrives plot. If Cruise was so honorable, why didn't he commit suicide too? Good visuals. 4 stars
12/30/03 JC Beautiful portrayal of Japanese culture.This film has touched me in a personal level.A++++ 5 stars
12/29/03 Agent Sands As well as giving us usual war film goods, it's a beautiful portrayal of Japanese culture. 5 stars
12/28/03 Jim Incredible movie 5 stars
12/27/03 Marvin P. top movie contender of the year 5 stars
12/26/03 ajay painfully boring. didn't enjoy it at all and wish I saw LOTR again... 2 stars
12/23/03 Fastbug If you liked DWW, you'll love this. An Oscar contender for sure! 5 stars
12/22/03 Caiphn 'Glorifies the rise of militaristic Japan'? Are you friggin retarded?Did you even watch it? 5 stars
12/21/03 Bill Cawlfield Cruise at his best 5 stars
12/20/03 your worst goddamn nightmare the only movie i can think of where a woman dresses a man and makes it so sensual & subtle 5 stars
12/18/03 Peter Americanized and it glorifies the rise of a militaristic Japan. 1 stars
12/18/03 Cool Leather Jack buuutiful work, loved it 5 stars
12/17/03 Gematria Are you kidding? This cliched piece of drivel is an insult. 2 stars
12/16/03 Emmy the best movie ever!!!!!! 5 stars
12/15/03 Gil Carlson A moving story, magnificently filmed 5 stars
12/13/03 Eric Powerful and emotional with some of the best battle scenes ever put on film. 5 stars
12/12/03 Tom Cruise I am a daft cunt. I really suck. 1 stars
12/12/03 Sean Emrick Best Film Ever 5 stars
12/12/03 Koitus Great movie! I particularly liked the Ninja attack, in the village! 5 stars
12/11/03 Darkheart Awesome. Awesome. Awesome. 5 stars
12/11/03 Cypher Great, very accurate to the samurai way. definantly worth the 7$. one of the best movies 5 stars
12/11/03 Nick Althought it felt odd, the movie is Oscar/Grammy Bound. I hope the JP actors get credit too 5 stars
12/09/03 nick2k i want the fucking dvd NOW!!! 5 stars
12/09/03 Simon the Great dis movie was full of homos stuff sammurri stuff wuz sooo boring. no hot chikc. 1 stars
12/09/03 jay poor..Cruise hollywoody Samurai..lousy Oriental Braveheart, give me a break ! 2 stars
12/09/03 Obi Wan Great...maybe Crowe could have played Nathan, but still great!! 5 stars
12/09/03 Unanon Good, despite the Cruise factor. 4 stars
12/09/03 Peter Yet another Cruise career vehicle. The 'Dimpled One' miscasts himself in historical films. 3 stars
12/08/03 alex I was suprized by Cruise, he did good job, but Watanabe was the reason why I loved the film 5 stars
12/08/03 Wolf 1st half hour, Cruise is acting(poorly) - rest of film, he's LIVING the role. 5 stars
12/08/03 Gray one ethnic group being shown as better than another=shit 1 stars
12/08/03 tony El nino anyone tht says this movie is less than swesome can shove one, this is the best movie!! 5 stars
12/08/03 Ryan beginning too long, good overall 5 stars
12/08/03 ROTK=2004 Oscar!! Braveheart owns this piece of shit. 1 stars
12/08/03 joe slow, a yawner 2 stars
12/08/03 Fenian Absolutely masterful. Screenplay, cinematography, acting, all fantastic! 5 stars
12/07/03 Stacy It's the best cultural movie I have ever seen 5 stars
12/07/03 vp go see it for your self, its one of the best i've seen this year 5 stars
12/07/03 jawsboy One of the best films of the year. Great acting, battles, cinematography, story. Go Cruise! 4 stars
12/07/03 benice very boring. people actually left during the film 1 stars
12/07/03 Noel Great Movie But Makes Me Wonder if I could be a Samurai 5 stars
12/07/03 kentkid An amazing movie, best one i've seen all year. 5 stars
12/06/03 john so so, trite ... bland 3 stars
12/06/03 Pete Well, i actually think it was okay. 4 stars
12/06/03 rsanchez You know where this is going from the get go, but it still sucks you in and never lets up. 5 stars
12/05/03 Brian incredible film 5 stars
12/05/03 Ray I think its very good, but not Oscar-good 5 stars
12/03/03 aseelye Good movie, but felt slow at times. 4 stars
12/02/03 t-d One of the years best 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  05-Dec-2003 (R)
  DVD: 04-May-2004

UK
  N/A

Australia
  15-Jan-2004




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