As Technically Impressive As It Is Enjoyable
At a little under 2 hours and 45 minutes, there’s no getting around the fact that The Last Samurai is a long film. Full of breathtaking landscapes, impressive cinematography and well choreographed fight scenes, persevering through the long run time is certainly well rewarded. Tom Cruise is equally as impressive as Nathan Algren too, although the conflicted Captain struggles a little in some of the more demanding scenes but is captivating throughout. Despite a tendency to fall into Hollywood cliches throughout, this is one history film that’s well worth watching.
Set in the 1870s, The Last Samurai follows ex-captain Nathan Algren who’s hired by American contractors to train the Japanese military to fight against the samurai residing in the rural areas of the country. Its here that the film takes on an interesting dynamic, switching from the samurai back to the Americans with Nathan firmly centred in the middle of this conflict. After events transpire that cause Nathan to rethink his position on the brewing war between the two factions, there’s some really interesting scenes that depict the inner turmoil hes going through that help to solidify Tom Cruise’s acting prowess. Unfortunately, his range isn’t as advanced as the role requires and because of this, he does struggle a little to deliver the subtlety needed. Its not a deal breaker, this is still one of Tom Cruise’s best performances to date, but its enough to make this part of the film feel more shallow than it should be.
Technically, The Last Samurai is certainly a competently made film. Whether it be the excellent soundtrack or well shot battle scenes, The Last Samurai is dripping in visual splendour. The interesting contrast in colour between the bright vistas of the samurai and the moody, urbanised browns and greys of the Americans helps too and makes The Last Samurai feel more artistic than other big blockbuster war movies. The sweeping establishing shots also do a good job of depicting the beauty of Japan and these scenes thankfully crop up throughout the film.
Overall, The Last Samurai is a competently made, technically impressive war film. The story plays out well and despite the long run time, never feels like it outstays its welcome. The battle scenes are well choreographed and although Tom Cruise is a little limited in his range with portraying inner turmoil, it doesn’t detract too much from the film’s appeal. Coupled with good editing and a decent soundtrack, The Last Samurai is a history film well worth watching.