The movie is set in 1876-77. This was the beginning of the modernization of Japan. A brief setup:
... Opening and Modernization
..... 1853/54 expedition of COMMODORE PERRY (US), negotiates opening Japan for international trade. Among the newly opened free ports YOKOHAMA.
..... 1868 coup d'etat, shogun disempowered, parliamentary democracy introduced. MEIJI RESTORATION. The Japanese adapt the French Code Napoleon, later to replace it by a law code based on German law (it provided preferential treatment for nobility, while French law was egalitarian).
..... imitation of western technology. One of the first internationally competitive products made in Japan was the piano.
Back to the plot. A Captain and Indian war veteran (Tom Cruse) is hired to train the Emperor's army in the use of the rifle to suppress the Shogun. He is captured during the first battle with the Samurai; but, impresses the Lord with his warrior spirit and his life is sparred. Upon living with the Samurai for the winter, he learns there ways and switches sides.
The movie does follow japanese customs and etiquette. The more you know the more you will appreciate this. The action was very well done and the swordwork was very authentic. Hollywood did have to throw in one ninja scene; but, it was appropriate for the chain of events. There was not a lot of gore; but, they made liberal use of blood for sword and gunshoot wounds.
Very well done movie and highly recommended.
I don't know a lot about the history, but i really liked the movie.
Rather than start up a duplicate thread, i'll post my review here.
A film by Edward Zwick
The year is 1876. Nathan Algren (Tom Cruise) is a Civil War hero. Officially, he is also a hero in the fight against the American Indians, but Algren is tormented by what happened. He has nightmares and flashbacks of the slaughter of the Indians. He is selling his story as a stage act (with the intent to sell rifles for the company putting on the show), but is trying to bury his memory in whiskey.
Algren is contacted by his former military commander, whom he hates with a passion because of the Indian slaughter. His commander has an offer for him from the Japanese. Algren is being recruited to train Japanese soldiers in modern warfare. Japan is trying to modernize and step away from some of its past traditions. To be specific, Japan is trying to separate from the Samurai tradition. The Japanese military is also trying to put down a rebellion from Samurai rebels who claim that Japan s modernization is happening too fast. Algren accepts the position (the money is good), and begins to train the Japanese. Even though they are making improvements, they are not yet ready for battle when they are commanded to fight against Katsumoto s (Ken Watanabe) Samurai rebels. The Samurai soundly defeat the army in the battle as the army is so undisciplined that they break ranks at the first charge. Algren is isolated and is fighting for his life. When Algren can fight no longer, one of the Samurai is prepared to kill him, but Katsumoto decides to take Algren prisoner. Even though it took some time to get here, this is where the movie truly begins.
Algren is in the care of Katsumoto s sister, Taka (Koyuki). We are taken on a journey with Algren as he is nursed back into health but still deals with the scars of his past. Algren must spend the winter as a prisoner because when the snow falls, there is no way out of the village. During this time, Algren learns about the samurai through conversations with Katsumoto and he begins to come to peace with himself. There also seems to be a gentle love interest forming between Algren and Taka, but so much of it is unspoken and shown throw gesture and glances.
I thought this was a beautiful movie. The cinematography was just stunning and while the film may have had a slower pacing, I found it incredibly engaging. Edward Zwick is the director of the underrated Courage Under Fire and The Seige , Legends of the Fall and the excellent film Glory . He doesn t make bad movies. The Last Samurai is one of the year s best thus far, and I would definitely recommend it.
4.5 pugs out of 5
I am glad Tribob said the swordwork was authentic, and that it followed japanese customs and etiquette.
But it still made me check my watch, which is about as big an insult I can give a movie short or walking out.