Monday, February 02, 2004

AWRIGHT!!! This is downright WICKED! It's like, WOW! THANKS! ... What is it?

This was the movie and my friends were supposed to watch yesterday afternoon in Greenbelt. I still got to see it last night with the family so I'm thankful for that. To start off I must admit that I'm not that big a fan of Tom Cruise so this came to me as a pleasant surprise. The story revolves around the self-narrated experiences of Captain Nathan Algren (Tom Cruise). Coming from a traumatic experience in the war against native American Indians, he functions mechanically in all his affairs. He's also constantly drunk and rude to almost all the people he talks to. He's hired to advertise for the Winchester Company by making him recall his exploits in the war (thereby deepening the wounds in his psyche even further). From there an old friend of his finds him and takes him to meet the Japanese Prime Minister Omura (Masato Harada) who offers him a new job training their army in the ways of the West. Thinking he has nothing better to do and of course in their right mind would turn down the astronomical compensation, he agrees to go with them back to Japan.

He's barely spent enough time training the fledgling Japanese army when they were ordered to confront the group of rebel warriors led by Katsumoto (Ken Watanabe) in a railroad construction site. Katsumoto is the last hold out to the original traditions of Japan. He's a former sensei (teacher) of Emperor Meiji (Shichinosuke Nakamura) and has gone out of the court ever since the spineless Emperor started letting his Prime Minister make his decisions for him, foremost of which was the opening of their country to outside influences. Far from rebelling against his former master, he believes he's doing him a great service by fighting off the invading progress of the white men. As was anticipated the Japanese army was decimated despite their superior weapons and Algren was taken captive. He was taken alive probably because Katsumoto saw a kindred soul in this foreign warrior (he watched Algren fight off around six of his men all by his lonesome).

In the course of his captivity Algren learned a lot from his captors. Whereas before he didn't care whether he lived or died in battle, how many enemies he can take with him, about the people who were with him, or life in general. Eventually he began to open up to the immediate family of Katsumoto (in whose house he was staying). One time he admitted to himself that he wasn't a church going person but he couldn't help but notice the strong spiritual connection these people put in everything they do. In one of their conversations Katsumoto asked Algren, "What does it mean to honor something?" The answer to that taught him a lot enough for him understand rather than fight off the principles of his erstwhile enemy. Eventually they began to respect each other, to fight for the protection of the other, and to fight alongside each other as equals. There were battles reminiscent of William Wallace's before the end and though they knew it was futile to fight more than a thousand men against their five hundred, the last Samurai's sacrifice hasn't been in vain.

* Check out also the review in Hollywood Jesus for more insightful reactions to this great movie.

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