Film reviews

The Last Samurai, Dir; Edward Zwick, Cert; 15

You can say what you like about Tom Cruise. He’ll always have his critics, many of whom will say he’ll never become a respected, legendary actor because of the “Cruise factor” – that being the one where, if he is playing a mafia boss, it’s just Tom Cruise in a sharp, suave suit rather than him “becoming” the character, or if he’s playing a pixie, it’s just Tom Cruise in a pixie suit.

For the most part, I tend to agree with these critics, but I would say there are exceptions to this rule. For example, I thought he gave a wonderful performance of a man being torn apart by his own insecurities in “Eyes Wide Shut” (that being a woefully underappreciated film in itself) and he does, to an extent, prove his doubters wrong in this tale of 1870s Japan. It probably won’t win over his most vindictive cynics but I believe it will at least prod the fence sitters of the world further toward his side of the field. One thing you CAN say about Cruise though, is that few of today’s actors choose such a diverse set of roles as he does – just look at “Eyes Wide Shut”, “Magnolia”, “Vanilla Sky” and this very film for evidence of that.

Anyway, the plot is simple enough – Cruise plays Nathan Elgren, an American military officer captured by Samurai soldiers but spared from an untimely death by the Japanese Emperor, who has decided that Elgren could be utilised to train the country’s first army in the ways of the United States’ most modern methods of warfare. That’s about it, and you would have thought a movie of some 150 minutes would drag a little in places, but it never does, and Ken Watanabe as Cruise’s Samurai counterpart is something of a revelation, as is some of the cinematography used to great effect by director Ed Zwick in a movie which, although rather similar to 1989’s “Glory”, is more than likely to attain several nominations for the forthcoming Academy Awards this year.

Having said all that, this film’s not for everyone. Take for example the writer who was supposed to be reviewing it , and whom I heard waking himself up by snoring too loudly towards the end of it! 7/10


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