IN THE ACTOR’S SPOTLIGHT WITH TOM CRUISE REVIEW: To round off this actor’s marathon, “The Last Samurai” stars Tom Cruise (Tropic Thunder, Jerry Maguire), Ken Watanabe (Inception, Godzilla ), Tony Goldwyn (Ghost, The Mechanic), Masato Harada (Fearless), Koyuki (Warau Iemon, Always- Sunset on Third Street), Hiroyuki Sanada (The Wolverine, The Twilight Samurai), Shin Koyamada (Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior [TV movie], The Yokai King [TV series]), Timothy Spall (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street), Billy Connolly (Brave, The Boondock Saints), Shichinosuke Nakamura (The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, Install), William Atherton (Die Hard, Ghostbusters), and Chad Lindberg (The Fast and the Furious , Supernatural [TV series]). It is directed by Eward Zwick (Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, Blood Diamond), who also wrote the screenplay with John Logan (Gladiator, Skyfall) and Marshall Herskovitz (American Assassin, Love & Other Drugs). Captain Nathan Algren (Cruise), veteran of the Civil War, is thrown into a complicated battle in Japan between the new, modern imperial army and traditional Samurai. A drunkard with a troubling past, Algren is forced to face hisself through the Samurai.
Honor, respect, tradition; all are beautifully wrapped in this stellar picture, “The Last Samurai.” Helmed by Edward Zwick and starring Tom Cruise (obviously, in case you haven’t seen the title of this marathon), “The Last Samurai” sought to explore the ancient culture of Japan, and how one man separated himself to fight with the “enemy.” Besides “Rain Man,” this is probably the most genuine Cruise film and performance I have seen from the actor. It handles its themes delicately and with such fluidity that you can’t help but be enthralled by the story that unfolds. The locations are beautiful, the acting is warm, the action sequences are epic, and the score is freaking fantastic (excuse my French, but it’s Hans Zimmer people). I loved this movie, but not in a way I typically do for Cruise flicks. It was a slow build-up for me, and only around the halfway point did I truly consider this an epic that isn’t as long. Why? Well, for various reasons. The big one in particular is how it’s predictable; not everything is, but you can tell right from the get-go what will go down and what lines will be crossed. It’s a formulaic process similar to “Dances with Wolves” or “Avatar,” which is basically a rip-off of the former. However, once I got past that, and was actually surprised at certain things that didn’t go according to plan, I reveled in the beauty that is “The Last Samurai.” From the interview I saw shared with Cruise and Zwick, the director was passionate about this project from the start. It wasn’t a cash grab, but merely a way to awaken viewers and take them back to a time where honor was held above all. There’s a heart that lies beneath this picture; one that beats with such velocity that it makes everything powerful and scenic. One thing Zwick did so often in this movie was relish in moments of silence. There’s quite a bit of this feature that goes to no talking; empty space that takes the place of words, and to be honest, I enjoyed it. The acting was fantastic, enough to speak without having to do so. The actors were graceful in their delivery and made for a realistic show worth seeing until the very finish. It’s a great ensemble for sure, and I especially love the bond that grew between Nathan Algren and Katsumoto. The locations spilled beauty (sorry for overuse of that word, but it’s true), and I was immersed in old Japan and it’s customs. Cherry blossom trees provided some of the best shots, outside of the huge battle at the end, and one could not help but be awed by the settings. Looping back to the action sequences, Zwick did an outstanding job. I don’t know what happened to the guy around the time he made “Jack Reacher: Never Go Back,” but his work was astounding in this. The battle between old and new Japan was one of the best sequences I’ve seen in a while (probably since “Braveheart”). It’s certainly a finish worth watching for, and I even shed a tear at a very emotional part. There’s so much love and respect poured into the culture of the Samurai that it just makes you want to learn of it more, as well as take an introspective of our own culture and lives. It’s an eye opener and awe-inspiring; what I find to be most awakening is how Tom Cruise films have sunk into the action-heavy, sugary romps that they are nowadays. What happened to the artful films? The ones that challenged viewers and emanated passion? Who knows, but watching these great features recently have surely made me more critical of his present work, if anything. The more I think about it, the more I appreciate “The Last Samurai,” and I recommend everyone to see it if they get the chance. It’s a wonderful experience that not only impacts, but flows with grace. It’s a must-see. FINAL SCORE: 96%= Juicy Popcorn
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Here is the trailer:
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