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The Last Samurai

In the face on an enemy, in the Heart of One Man, Lies the Soul of a Warrior 

Year: 2003 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 (Scope) 
Certificate: BBFC 15 Cert – Not suitable for under 15s 
Subtitles: The level of subtitling in this film is unknown to WSC 
Directed by Unknown 
Starring: Unknown  
An image from The Last Samurai

Director Zwick takes audiences back into the 19th century as he did in Legends of the Fall and Glory with this fantastic action-adventure film. Cruise stars as Nathan Algren, a confederate soldier in emotional turmoil after being forced to commit atrocities against Native Americans during the civil war. To earn himself a small fortune he agrees to go to Japan to train the army in modern warfare so they can combat the samurai; revolting ancient warriors who oppose the Industrial Revolution taking place. However, when Algren himself is captured by the samurai he is emerged into their highly-disciplined culture of spirituality and honour, and has to make his choice of who he will stand and fight for.

The creators of this film have certainly taken a poetic licence in combining legend and history but the result is a rich and exciting lesson in heritage. Those dubious about Cruise in the lead role will be relieved to see he carries the film well, but the real cast strength comes from the samurai. Watanabe as the imposing warrior leader, Katsumoto is fantastic; he really did deserve his Oscar nomination. Koyamada’s film debut as Katsumoto’s son is also impressive with his skilful demonstrations of fighting and the samurai mentality. Koyuki as Taka sensitively portrays the widow of a samurai Algren kills who has to fight the shame of having Algren living under her roof and whose feelings eventually transform into tenderness and love towards him. The cinematography is excellent, from the beautiful scenery to the majestic-like presentation of the samurai, especially when they emerge from the mist in their ornate armour. The fight scenes are the most impressive element of the film, especially when you realise the impossible task the samurai face.

This film is not perfect and at times it is in danger of falling into predictable sentimentality but the strength of the acting and impressive fight scenes bring it through in fine form. Just to see the samurai take on canons and machine guns with their medieval weapons puts you on the edge of your seat and really does have to be seen on the big screen.

Hannah Upton

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Screenings of this film:

2003/2004 Summer Term (35mm)
2003/2004 Summer Term (35mm)