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Thursday, October 15, 2009

Movie Spotlight: The Last Samurai

One of the most harrowing and inspiring films I've seen to date, it has all the makings for a great film, strong story, superb acting, and sweeping romance. Let's take a look back at the instant classic, The Last Samurai, and all the reasons why you should own this fantastic movie.
Directed by: Edward Zwick
Produced by:
Tom Cruise
Tom Engelman
Marshall Herskovitz
Scott Kroopf
Paula Wagner
Edward Zwick
Starring: Tom Cruise, Ken Watanabe, Timothy Spall, Billy Connolly, Tony Goldwyn, Hiroyuki Sanada, Koyuki Kato, shin Koyamada
Music by: Hans zimmer
Cinematography by: John Toll
Editing by: Victor Du Bois, Steven Rosenblum
Distributed by: Warner Bros.
Release date(s): December 5, 2003
Running time: 160 mins
Country: New Zealand, United States, Japan
Language: English, Japanese, French
Budget: 140 Million
Worldwide Gross: 456,758,981

Story: [9 points]
To be fair, I will only give it 9 points, being that there were some historical errors. But when you set that aside, the sweeping story of forbidden love, honor, and life lessons are enough to move almost anyone. From the moment you first watch The Last Samurai, you feel this overwhelming feeling of intense emotion, felt not just from the characters, but from the story itself, which revolves around the code of the Samurai. There's no denying that this movie was wonderfully, beautifully, and perfectly written.

Acting: [10 points]
We all know Tom Cruse always gives stellar performances. But setting him aside for a moment, the two stand out actors in the movie were no doubt Ken Watanabe and Koyuki Kato. Ken Watanabe brought to his character the bulk of the emotion of the movie. there wasn't a single thing you could find to say that was terrible about the way he performed. You didn't see Ken Watanabe, you saw Katsumoto, and he immersed you deep in the emotion of his character. Koyuki Kato proved to you how powerful silence can be. Even though she spoke but only a few words in the movie, her performance was expressed entirely through her face. Her emotions and character were all captured through her eyes. And I have to admit she is one of the most beautiful Japanese actresses I have ever seen. 2 thumbs up to acting.

Dramatic Effect/Level of action: [10 points]
One thing this film achieved was mixing action and drama within the same scene, which is almost impossible to do. In the final moment of the final battle, you know as well as they know that they're final charge will end almost certainly in defeat. And when they charge and are defeated, you are left feeling an overwhelming despair. Like There Will Be Blood, the drama in The last Samurai is meant for mature audiences. Another thing that brought the dramatic effect was the romance between Tom Cruise and Koyuki Kato's characters. In most movies between the two stars who fall in love, you can almost always expect a love scene, but this film did something I did not expect. There was no love scene, instead, before the final battle when Taka (Kato) dresses Nathan Algren (Cruise) in her deceased husband's armor, the embrace at the end gave you the notion of the love far better than any love scene could ever do, simply beautiful.

Score/Soundtrack: [10 points]
I've always said, what gives a film it's emotion is it's score. A bad score can ruin a movie no matter how good the story and acting is. Hans Zimmer delivered the most powerful score I had ever heard, and it remains as my most favored movie score of all time. He blended traditional Japanese sounds with an epic and sweeping orchestral sound, and the result was a score that complimented the movie perfectly. One scene in particular where the score stood out is the scene where Katsumoto's son gets his top knot cut off. The power of that scene came from two places: The Actor's despair filled yell, and the music that accompanied.

Overall movie enjoyment: [10 points]
I saw this movie with my brother the week it came out. By the time the credits rolled, all he and I could do was sit there, awe struck. And we weren't the only ones. A lot of other movie goers were stunned. This was the first film to make my brother cry, and it was the first one to truly make me cry. It is one of the most beautifully filmed, acted, and scored films I have and will ever see...

Rent Worthy: Yes
Buy Worthy: Yes

Overall score: 49 out of 50

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