Dec 102003
 
Authors: Jeremy Anderson

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outdated and prepares new troops to head into battle to kill off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

life.

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

uninspired.

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

plight.

“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

here.

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

of fun.

3 out of 4

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