Edward Zwick has been known to direct some great war-related
movies over the years such as “Glory,” “Courage Under Fire” and
“Legends of the Fall,” and Zwick continues in this tradition with
his newest film, “The Last Samurai,” a moving and immensely
exciting tale of honor and courage.
As Japan begins to modernize in the mid-1800s, American Captain
Nathan Algren (Tom Cruise) is hired to train the emperor’s soldiers
in the ways of the West.
Japan feels that their previous reliance on samurai warriors is
outdated and prepares new troops to head into battle to kill off
the samurai rebels.
However, it is in one of these battles that Algren is wounded
and taken prisoner by the very enemy he is sent to destroy.
During captivity, Algren begins to realize these people are not
the “savages” they are made out to be, but rather a respectable
civilization rooted in tradition and values. As his doubts begin to
grow as to the morality of his orders, Algren starts to adopt the
language, culture and fighting style of this rather tranquil way of
The trainer turned trainee also forms a bond with the Samurai
leader, Katsumoto (Ken Wantanabe) and his sister, Taka, whose
husband Algren was killed in battle.
When these two opposing forces battle throughout the film, we
are treated to some amazingly choreographed action sequences.
“The Last Samurai” has scenes so exciting and unforgettable that
they will undoubtedly become classic moments in motion picture
history. The action is very violent, but never sloppy or
Besides being expertly constructed, these scenes, and the movie
as a whole, are beautifully shot. The scenic landscape provides an
ironic backdrop for the brutal violence that occurs upon it.
Tom Cruise gives a convincing performance in the film and proves
he can wield a sword with the best of them. The most commanding
performance is from Ken Wantanabe, though.
Wantanabe fills the character of Katsumoto with more than enough
conviction and heart in order for the audience to care about his
“The Last Samurai” packs an emotional ending including a truly
powerful moment where a minor character looks out over the
battlefield and is struck by the raw audacity and unwarranted
bloodshed before him. His silent remorse epitomizes the impact the
movie aims to achieve on its audience. It worked on me.
3.5 out of 4
“Something’s Gotta Give”
Jack Nicholson plays Harry, a playboy in his sixties who has no
problem landing beautiful, young women despite his age. His latest
catch is Marin, played by Amanda Peet (“The Whole Nine Yards”).
Harry and Marin head to her mom’s beach house for a relaxing
weekend in the sun. Marin’s mom, Erica (Diane Keaton), surprises
the lovebirds by showing up the same weekend. Needless to say, she
is less than thrilled about her daughter’s new “boy” friend.
After suffering a minor heart attack, Harry is ordered by a
doctor (Keanu Reeves) to recuperate somewhere near the hospital,
and Erica reluctantly agrees to allow him to recover at her beach
house. Marin has to return home, forcing Harry and Erica to be
alone together. You can probably guess where the movie goes from
Romantic comedies featuring characters in their fifties and
sixties are a rare breed, but “Something’s Gotta Give” proves that
this uncommon formula can work if done well and with the right
people. The movie is continually laugh-out-loud funny and features
one of the most memorable and hilarious sex scenes ever filmed.
Diane Keaton tends to annoy me due to the obnoxiously neurotic
and high-strung characters she usually plays in movies, but she
could very well earn an Oscar nomination for her work here. As for
Jack, he is great as usual.
The film’s only big flaw is a somewhat sluggish pace during the
third act. That aside, this comedy about love late in life is a lot
3 out of 4