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The Last Samurai
2003 - R - 144 Mins.
Director: Edward Zwick
Producer: Tom Cruise, Paula Wagner, Edward Zwick, Marshall Herskovitz, Scott Kroopf, Tom Engelman, Ted Field, Richard Solomon, Charles Mulyehill, Vincent Ward
Written By: John Logan, Edward Zwick, Marshall Herskovitz
Starring: Tom Cruise, Ken Watanabe, Billy Connolly, Koyuki, Tony Goldwyn
Review by: Joe Rickey
   
An American military officer is hired by the Emperor of Japan to train the country’s army in modern warfare tactics. It is not long before he finds himself in the middle of a clash between two very different sides of an ongoing conflict in the film The Last Samurai directed by Edward Zwick (Glory) and starring Tom Cruise. The Last Samurai is a simply stunning example of how good a modern film can be, from the stylish cinematography to the superb lead performance by Tom Cruise, every element of The Last Samurai has been refined down to pure perfection.

Tom Cruise has had a simply amazing career in film, to say the least. From his early days in such star-making films as Risky Business and Days of Thunder, to his risk-taking adventures into the surreal with such films as Vanilla Sky to Magnolia, Tom Cruise has appeared in a wide variety of films. Not only that, he has managed to succeed in each and every role he has been given. He is the only actor in Hollywood that can open any type of film and have it become a huge success. A film like Vanilla Sky is a very tough film to sell to the masses, yet no doubt because of his presence, the film opened at number one and eventually grossed over 100 million domestically. The Last Samurai is another film that at first might not appeal to the masses who remember him most for Jerry Maguire, it will certainly be a huge success nonetheless, adding the roster of blockbuster films anchored by the single most reliable actor in all of Hollywood.

The Last Samurai is a success on many levels. First off, it gives enough screen time to develop each and every main character to their fullest, without there existing a lag in the pacing of the film. The Last Samurai makes you care deeply about what happens to the characters, a feat not many films can attest to these days. This element is aided by tremendous performances from the entire cast. Tom Cruise once again shows why he is so well liked practically oozing charisma and a likable persona from the very beginning without ever having to jeopardize his central character. As his mentor of sorts, Ken Wanatabe is nearly perfect as the man who questions Cruise’s character and yet forms a bond with the American at the same time.

Much can also be said about the grand scale on which the battle sequences are filmed. They are visceral in their impact right from the get-go, there existing enough of them so as to keep those looking for an action film satiated. They are helped by cinematography that showcases the rolling hills and unique architecture of Japan circa the late 1800’s.

In many films multiple negative elements can be found and discussed. Not so with regards to The Last Samurai. From the acting, the editing, the pacing, the direction and the cinematography, everything is executed in an excellent fashion. The Last Samurai simply is the best film thus far this year.
 
Movie Guru Rating
A masterpiece.  An Essential film.  A classic. A masterpiece.  An Essential film.  A classic. A masterpiece.  An Essential film.  A classic. A masterpiece.  An Essential film.  A classic. A masterpiece.  An Essential film.  A classic.
  5 out of 5 stars

 
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