Movie title: The Last Samurai
Rate: 5 stars
Summary:The Last Samurai tells the moving story of the expertly-trained and experienced Captain Nathan Algren, a former military officer from the US. He is told he would be best suited to training an incompetent Japanese army, preparing to fight for the government, in order to suppress the traditional Samurai ways and welcome more Westernisation.
Their first battle turns into a disaster, further proving that the amateur army is no match against the skilful, strategic samurais, who appear out of the blue like ghosts from the dark to attack. Throughout the catastrophic combat, Algren proves himself more worthy than his men when single-handedly taking out the samurais attempting to assassinate him; he is surprisingly saved by the leader of the samurais, the stoic and daring Katsumoto himself.
Algren is captured and taken away by the samurais to live among them, at Katsumoto’s request. He slowly builds up sympathy and deep loyalty to them and their customs, learning to fight alongside these warriors.
Soon, Algren is set free and realises that the once-amateur army is now a well-prepared and equipped one, much unlike the one he tried to train before. Furthermore, he is troubled between his conflicting loyalty for two opposing sides: the army or the samurais.
My review:This movie was a powerful and dramatic, action-packed ride with stunning visuals, excellent fighting montages and an emotional storyline. It gives an engaging insight into the samurais and the exquisite aesthetic of Japan, simultaneously performing an interesting task of favouring the traditional heritage of Japanese culture, rather than the inflicting side of Westernisation.
At the beginning, I wasn’t too keen on Algren’s bad-tempered personality, his character being deeply troubled and affected by trauma, but he later became greatly likeable as he lived among the Samurais; learning to forgive himself for his past self’s wrong deeds and finding peace in their land.
However, my favourite character was most definitely Katsumoto, a great leader who is faithful to his people; positioning himself stoically as a strong predator not prey, always skilled in having a strategy for each and every moment. He is admirable for his bravery and collected, nonchalant temperament, having an eye for Algren’s potential despite participating with their rival.
Not to mention, I couldn’t possibly write this review without mentioning Taka: a tenacious and passionate widow who didn’t engage with brute force, but was formidable in the sense that she persisted through hardship and adversity after losing her husband in a duel with Algren – who later apologises using the Japanese words he learned during his stay, but she forgives him in an honourable manner, mentioning truthfully that they have both performed their duties.
The film is very intriguing overall, the way it portrays the rebellion from the sentimental Samurais’ perspective, following their daily lives through the path of Algren and his descriptive journal; their existence lasting like that of the fleeting flowers on a cherry blossom tree.