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THE LAST SAMURAI

A heavy-drinking, guilt-consumed Civil War veteran is persuaded by a budding Japanese industrialist to sober up and come help rid his country of roving bands of samurai warriors.


CAST: Tom Cruise, Ken Watanabe, Billy Connolly, Masao Harada, Timothy Spall, Tony Goldwyn, William Atherton, Scott Wilson, Togo Igawa


DIRECTOR: Edward Zwick


"‘The Last Samurai’ is an example of the bizarre logic of Old Hollywood, in which tens of millions of dollars are spent on authentic rice paper and functioning waterwheels in order to prop up an entertaining but entirely inauthentic fantasy—an American showing up to revive the samurai tradition...Most of the movie is pitched at the level of high-flown cliché and achieves commercial eloquence but nothing more...Cruise’s sensitive exchanges in beginner’s Japanese with a beautiful widow seem to have been conceived for a late-period Richard Chamberlain TV movie…The movie comes close to dying between battle scenes."
--David Denby, The New Yorker

"The movie is an unabashed Cruise star vehicle and a sometime mangling of Japanese history. But it also has feeling, grace and spirit… it's done with such visual beauty and thrilling action that, by the time of the film's climactic battle -- the samurais' last stand against the imperial army -- we're swept into its grand myth-making…What ‘The Last Samurai’ lacks, ultimately, is the sense of comic fire and danger, the roaring gusto, that were the specialties of Kurosawa and his great samurai star, tigerish Toshiro Mifune…but it's miles ahead of most of the gadget-ridden adventure epics around now." --Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

"Under its beauty, its lush production values and its superficial spell of enchantment, the basic product feels lame and thin, wan and stale …battles are reasonably well staged, and lots of people die. There's some cool sword-fighting. But still, it's junk…you can feel the handsome little guy ‘acting’ with every fiber of his being. It's kind of unsettling. He resembles Sean Penn in ‘I Am Sam,’ except he seems to be shouting ‘I Am Samurai’ …He's a poster boy for the concept of ‘trying too hard.’ He's not a hero, he's the guy at the party who's so intense you want him to stay away…This movie yearns for a medieval country to remain medieval. What sane person could buy into such absurdity?" --Stephen Hunter, The Washington Post

"It’s ‘like we're in a pre-9/11 time warp. It's weird to watch, nowadays, a film in which the American hero is seduced by the other side's warlord to fight against his own ‘barbarian’ capitalist country—to see the multiplex audience cheer a man who it could well, in a slightly different context, want to see tried and executed... Cruise gives a confident superstar performance and one with no off-putting 19th-century period airs…The finale of ‘The Last Samurai’ is a blood-engorged orgy that ends with a quasi-erotic embrace between two bullet-ridden warriors. You can't really hate a war that ends with the senseless death of thousands when it gives rise to the year's most romantic clinch." --David Edelstein, Slate

"Ed Zwick and producer-star Tom Cruise have made a 19th century epic that gains its power by tapping into a host of contemporary terrors: the fear of modern weaponry, of cold commerce destroying nature and ancient culture, and of a vanishing American integrity. Cruise's undeniable star voltage makes it all palatable, and the film is gorgeous to behold…Just don't pinch yourself when Cruise comes riding up dressed as a samurai. There are moments in the film where, if the audience were to step back, even for a second, the whole edifice might collapse under a cascade of derisive laughter. For a man best known for his smile, Cruise takes himself very seriously." --Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle

"Tom Cruise has never demonstrated remarkable emotional depth—he’s so ferociously present as a performer that even his reflective moments can seem showy. It is to his credit here that he often succeeds in giving Algren an inner life that is not simply a scaled-down version of his outer one. We don’t register Algren’s need for redemption as simply a plot device. He looks genuinely stricken by his past…‘The Last Samurai’ is an idyll in which the savageries of existence are transcended by spiritual devotion. That’s a beautiful dream, and it gives the film a deep pleasingness, but the fullness of life and its blackest ambiguities are sacrificed." --Peter Rainer, New York Magazine

"‘The Last Samurai’ is both insane and not insane enough…Zwick, a sensible-souled filmmaker with gaudy romantic aspirations, never grounds Cruise's self-hate in anything more than a hazy flashback. Wouldn't the slaughter at Gettysburg have traumatized him as much as the Indian Wars? Zwick doesn't touch on that irony, because he knows he can get away with pandering to contemporary notions of white Western guilt for destroying other races and subcultures…The nutty, masochistic high-mindedness might be funny if it weren't so square, and so woefully inappropriate to the carnage. In ‘The Last Samurai,’ the body count is almost as high as the dead-brain-cell count." --Michael Sragow, The Baltimore Sun

"Tom Cruise, the can-do idol of millions, uses his polished-chrome smile mirthlessly. At least for the first hour, his grin looks like a faded tattoo… Mr. Cruise comes off as too contemporary for the 19th century — at one point, he seems to be waiting for a cellphone call to confirm his terms for a cover of Details magazine." --Elvis Mitchell, The New York Times

"‘The Last Samurai," in which Tom Cruise teaches the 19th-century Japanese to respect their own warrior traditions, is a crock -- a pandering epic that's as phony as it is condescending…Beyond a rampaging vanity that makes it almost impossible for him show vulnerability, Cruise is a drastically limited actor whose ‘serious’ repertoire consists almost entirely of narrowing his eyes while flashing his famous teeth. And boy, do we see a lot of those eyes and teeth in a movie that often slows to a crawl to accommodate endless closeups of the star, surely the most influential of the 10 credited producers." --Lou Lumenick, The New York Post

"Perhaps no other country treats its popular heroes as lavishly as America, and no other country disowns them as bluntly. This can happen when too much success is further burdened by profligacy (Mike Tyson), eccentricity (Michael Jackson), misogyny (Martha Stewart) or, in the case of Tom Cruise, Scientology. It's hard to find anyone eager to sing praises for Cruise these days…the film's romanticized idealization of old-world samurai values, at the expense of Westernized progress, manages to come off as reactionary and liberal pleading at the same time. Through it all, Tom Cruise stares soulfully past the camera, on toward a catering truck where sushi rolls and ham sandwiches dwell side by side in harmony." --Jan Stuart, Newsday

"Nothing about ‘The Last Samurai’ rings as false as Tom Cruise…when he was younger, he sparked with promise, giving strong character performances in both ‘Rain Man’ and ‘Born on the Fourth of July’… Then the actor hit it even bigger, developed a degree of creative control over his movies and began doing cautious, overly calculated turns where he seemed terminally outside the character, never letting us too close, always keeping one eye cast on maintaining his hard-earned celebrity. In effect, Cruise stopped being an actor and took up the full-time job of being Tom Cruise…there are stretches in which it’s possible to sit back and let ‘The Last Samurai’ wash over us, in the way that we might take pleasure in a prefab Oriental antique that we know is phony. But then we snap out of the trance and find ourselves craving something more." --Scott Foundas, LA Weekly

"‘The Last Samurai’ claims to commemorate aspects of ancient Japanese culture. Yet it gives most of its glamour shots to Tom Cruise, playing an American who helps his Asian friends far more than they help him. This follows a familiar Zwick pattern. ‘Glory’ cozied up to Matthew Broderick more than Denzel Washington, even though its subject was black Civil War soldiers. Mr. Zwick also seems convinced that his stories are so fascinating that he can tell them very, very slowly. His greatest achievement in this area is the 1994 historical romance ‘Legends of the Fall,’ in which you can almost see the characters' mustaches grow, one tedious millimeter at a time." --David Sterritt, The Christian Science Monitor


"As legend has it, the samurai of Japan were among the greatest warriors in world history. As Hollywood has it, none was greater than Tom Cruise…Cruise acts up a storm here, using at least two facial expressions, but is upstaged by Watanabe, a Japanese star with riveting screen presence." --Jack Mathews, The New York Daily News