The Last Samurai
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Time Out saysSick to the soul - or soused, at any rate - Capt Nathan Algren (Cruise) is selling his Wild West exploits for public amusement when he's approached by representatives of Japan's Emperor Meiji. The Emperor's reformist pursuit of international trade has outraged traditional isolationists. A samurai rebellion led by the charismatic Katsumoto (Watanabe) threatens the court; the Emperor will pay Algren handsomely to train a new infantry division and quell the threat. But when Algren is wounded and captured by the samurai, his allegiances shift. Competently mounted in its studiedly immersive, elongated way, Zwick's earnest costume epic dresses a knee-jerk, reactionary sensibility in exotic garb. Set about a dozen years after Cold Mountain and its true forebear, Dances with Wolves, it affects a superficially similar disaffection with the US Civil War (this from the director of Glory), but far from being all warred out, Algren is bursting for a fight. Any fight. Going native under the care of the samurai, Algren finds true cause in the fascistic feudalism of duty, discipline and bushido, 'the way of the warrior'. The ultimate expression of this code is ritual suicide - seppuku - and that's the 'glory' to which Zwick and his collaborators thrill, engineering a hopeless battle between the outnumbered rebels (with arrows and swords) and a faceless imperial army armed with heavy artillery and machine guns. Zwick draws confused parallels with Custer at the Little Bighorn and the Spartans at Thermopylae, but you could draw a less complacent analogy: Algren's closest contemporary counterpart must be John Walker Lind, the American Taliban.