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The Last Samurai - 8/11/2006 10:53:26 PM   
Timon


Posts: 14588
Joined: 30/9/2005
From: Bristol
For the cynics, it's easy to dismiss The Last Samurai as an ego trip for The Cruiser. There he is, basically doing "Dances With Samurai" waving a sword looking like God's gift to epics and daring to survive an onslaught of machine gun fire while his lesser known costars are slaughtered.....but I feel there is a lot more to this film and that it is one of the best epics of recent years.
 
 
First of all, let us realise that this IS a film and of course it is not completly accurate. The Americans did not actually train the Japanese in warfare (it was in fact the Prussians) and there wasn't a Katsumoto who lead a revolt against the Emperor. The man's name was actually Takamori Saigo. He like the film's character led a samurai rebellion in 1877 as he saw foreign influence in his country destroying what made Japan great. Like Katsumoto, Saigo ended up committing suicide in defeat in battle despite being adored by the Japanese public and mourned by the Emperor. Apparantly a statue of Saigo was erected shortly after his death and can today be seen in northeast Tokyo. Anyway, I digress....the film!

Firstly, this was no easy role for The Cruiser. Whatever feelings you may have towards the man, you have to admire the man's dedication. For his role of Nathan Algren, he spent two years (!) learning how to use a sword, getting into shape as well as learning how to speak Japanese. This was not just a paycheck film for him...not that any film generally is.
 
Ed Zwick has always been interested in culture clashes - be it the clash between Union and Confederacy over black soldiers in GLORY or the clash between tradition and progress in THE LAST SAMURAI. Here he manages to keep the balance between emotional character driven film and action epic. The film flawlessly flows from beautifully and vast battles to softer moments be it Algren taking in the sights of the Samurai's way of life or his conversations with Katsumoto.
 
Which bring us to Ken Wannabe, the film's titular character. For it is Katsumoto who is The Last Samurai not Algren. Sure, Algren picked up the skills, learned about Bushido and can take on three ninjas or ronins singlehandedly but it's Katsumoto who is the last of his people and the only one who can make the Emperor seeing his errors in rapid progress. The man completely owns the screen whenever he is on it. He shamelessly eclipses The Cruiser as the noble and honorable leader of the rebels.


It is not just him that pushes The Cruiser into the background. Hiroyuki Sanada as the fearsome warrior Ujio commands attention whenever he is in a scene and even newcomer Shin Koyamada who stars as Nobutanda, Katsumoto's son, does a star turn - his final scene being a mixture of noble sacrifice and supressed emotion as he buys time for his father's escape. Timothy Spall and Billy Connolly provide decent support but it is their Japanese co-stars that truely shine.

Another important element to the film is Hans Zimmer's score. Beautiful does not even begin to describe it and without it, the film would be all the more poorer.

Of course, it's not perfect. Algren's romance with Taka seems a tad unnescary and is obviously in there to cater to a certain demographic and Algren's demise would have been more satisfying if he had fallen alongside his friends....but then who would have told the Emperor about the Samurai's bravery - Warriors, willing to give their lives for what seems to have become a forgotten word: honor.

< Message edited by Timon -- 1/3/2007 1:11:00 PM >


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Post #: 1
RE: The Last Samurai - 8/11/2006 10:56:45 PM   
BobaJango


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Great post (5/5 for film). If only Mr Cruise did more films like this, he'd be a much more respected actor!

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RE: The Last Samurai - 9/11/2006 5:30:27 AM   
Gimli The Dwarf


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Wonderful film. I saw it at the cinema and loved it, and it grows on me every time I watch it. It looks absolutely beautiful, and the images on-screen are perfectly complimented by a lovely score.


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RE: The Last Samurai - 9/11/2006 9:23:41 AM   
kumar


Posts: 5229
Joined: 2/10/2005
its a brilliant film, i love it. its visually stunning if nothing else. if i remember right tehres a scene where they are talking or walking, and there is blossom falling constantly.

that looked really nice. :) the film is a great one, and surprisingly violent too! i wasnt expecting to see that before i saw the film, but makes it feel all the more authentic.

good job cruise...cough cough....again cough.

i dont care whether he wrestled with operah or blags on about scientology, but he is one of the best actors around.

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RE: The Last Samurai - 9/11/2006 7:22:05 PM   
Timon


Posts: 14588
Joined: 30/9/2005
From: Bristol
Also, Samurai Vs Ninjas! What's not to love?
 
Bring it.


_____________________________

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Twitter: @timonsingh

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Post #: 5
RE: The Last Samurai - 9/11/2006 8:13:17 PM   
KnightofZyryab


Posts: 5840
Joined: 26/12/2005
Beautiful film, deeply emotional ending and Zimmer's score is perfectly set against the backdrop of Japan. Cruise and Watnabe evinced great sentiment in the relationship between Algren and Katsumoto. An epic in the truest sense of the word.

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RE: The Last Samurai - 9/11/2006 9:01:13 PM   
Cuchulainn


Posts: 5755
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From: Hell
Another great post,Timon,reminiscing on yet another great Action/Adventure film...I can't elaborate any further on what the guys and you have said about this excellent movie...The only thing that could have improved it would have been for Algren to buy the farm along with the other samurai...Regardless,it's still ace...

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RE: The Last Samurai - 9/11/2006 11:16:28 PM   
=JD=


Posts: 548
Joined: 8/10/2005
I agree with you lot saying this is a great film......but Tom Cruise' role in it still irritates me so much.

I realise that him learning Japanese and how to use a bokken in about 8 seconds is crucial for plot devopment. However, I still can't stop thinking how much of a nobber he is in the film

For historical accuracy on the events I watch When the Last Sword is Drawn. But for a bit more brainless epic, the last Samurai is gravy!


Iconic shite innit!

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Post #: 8
RE: The Last Samurai - 10/11/2006 11:42:05 AM   
chris_scott01


Posts: 3081
Joined: 5/1/2006
Tom Cruise has never bothered me that much, thankfully.  I wouldn't want his performances to be utterly ruined by his extra curricular activities. 

I really enjoyed The Last Samurai.  I find stories of people 'finding' themselves very inspiring.  Of course there will be crap movies that try this storyline but Samurai was handled very well.  When I first saw a picture of Cruise as a samurai I thought 'oh goodness' not another film trying to make a big star look natural in something very alien to them.  I thought Cruise was very convincing as Nathan Algren and underplayed the part to great effect. 

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RE: The Last Samurai - 10/11/2006 6:23:32 PM   
KennyM


Posts: 2816
Joined: 7/4/2006
Class film, great post Timon, cant really elaborate on whats been said already, just a great film that can bear repeated viewings. And the ending gets me every time.. "I will show you how they lived"..sniff sniff

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Post #: 10
RE: The Last Samurai - 14/11/2006 8:34:57 PM   
Timon


Posts: 14588
Joined: 30/9/2005
From: Bristol
quote:

ORIGINAL: chris_scott01

When I first saw a picture of Cruise as a samurai I thought 'oh goodness' not another film trying to make a big star look natural in something very alien to them.  I thought Cruise was very convincing as Nathan Algren and underplayed the part to great effect. 


Yeah, he doesn't exactly blend in does he.
 
I thought the Cruiser did a fantastic job in the role though and I can't see anyone else playing it with the same conviction and passion that he did.


_____________________________

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RE: The Last Samurai - 14/11/2006 11:59:44 PM   
bozo


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From: HM Prison Slade
 
This film is as beautiful and arrogant as the devil itself.
Everytime I watch a film in which handsome American geniuses preach to people of other cultures (or ENTIRE other cultures) about wisdom and strength and discipline and etcetera, I feel like throwing up.
It works the other way too of course. Or, rather, it DOESN'T!  

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Post #: 12
RE: The Last Samurai - 17/11/2006 2:24:53 PM   
Timon


Posts: 14588
Joined: 30/9/2005
From: Bristol
quote:

ORIGINAL: bozo

 
This film is as beautiful and arrogant as the devil itself.
Everytime I watch a film in which handsome American geniuses preach to people of other cultures (or ENTIRE other cultures) about wisdom and strength and discipline and etcetera, I feel like throwing up.
It works the other way too of course. Or, rather, it DOESN'T!  


But he doesn't preach or try to convert. He gets his eyes opened by the Samurai and supports and defends their traditional ways. He's even fighting against American imperialism and arms.

Could it be you're missing the point entirely?

_____________________________

"I put no stock in religion. By the word 'religion', I have seen the lunacy of fanatics of every denomination be called 'The Will of God'. Holiness is in right action and courage on behalf of those who cannot defend themselves."

Twitter: @timonsingh

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Post #: 13
RE: The Last Samurai - 20/11/2006 10:36:15 AM   
Jessica_ca_ca_ca


Posts: 30072
Joined: 4/1/2006
The Last Samurai is a surprisingly poignant and moving film, I find. Not only does Cruise's performance draw out the viewer in its overall perception of his declining life and society, but the way his character and senses develop and intertwine really is mesmirising to watch. The viewing pleasure of Sanada's peaceful existence mingled with the art of war really does convey how modernisation has actually made man lose his soul in the midst of his quest for advancement. It's a film about honour, which is sadly lacking these days.

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RE: The Last Samurai - 20/11/2006 1:59:42 PM   
mrpeel1973


Posts: 13
Joined: 9/11/2006
The Last Samurai is a classic film and in my top 20 of all time.  Cruise easily gives his best performance so far.  In fact he followed that up with another good performance as the hitman in Collateral. 

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Post #: 15
RE: The Last Samurai - 22/11/2006 10:56:29 PM   
Atomhammer


Posts: 170
Joined: 11/10/2005
From: Wales
I adored this movie when it came out as it was far better than I believed it would be. Not up there with Gladiator or Braveheart but nearly as great for my tastes. Some very subtle work and a fabulous soundtrack meant that this and colateral were the last two really good movies the cruiser has been I feel.

The action and character moments are all handled well with no poor framing, each shot lingers long enough for you to take it all in whilst the battles are visceral and the soundtrack emotive. It's a fine movie and one of my personal favourites because its not about cruise, watanabe for starters turns in a blinder (which isnt unusual for him).

Youve all summed it up far more articulatley than I could hope for but I enjoyed this immensley and I find this move rewatchable - far more than many DVD's I own. Thats as big a compliment as I can give it.


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RE: The Last Samurai - 23/11/2006 7:44:08 PM   
Desperate Teenager


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Joined: 21/3/2006
An absolutely breathtaking film visually and atmospherically. The only film role that I actually forget that it's Tom Cruise and he delivers an amazing performance, although not quite as good as the marvellous Ken Watanabe.
Even Billy Connelly and Timothy Spall are great in very serious (in terms of surroundings and basis of the film) roles.
An excellent film.

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RE: The Last Samurai - 25/11/2006 2:31:39 AM   
Kazuya


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From: The Eighth Dimension c/o Buckaroo Banzai
Great post, Timon. I think The Last Samurai is a good film. I liked Tom Cruise´s performance and I think he´s an excellent actor.



A very beautiful scene..and an exceptionally gorgeous actress..

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RE: The Last Samurai - 25/11/2006 4:01:23 PM   
sagent33

 

Posts: 136
Joined: 9/3/2006
From: Stilring/Scotland
i must agree, it is a great visually stunning movie that emotionally draws you in to actually care for the characters and you feel the respect grow between the characters brilliantly and naturally, down to good performances from all actors involved!its also a solid performance by cruise!

great and worth while post Timon!!

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Post #: 19
RE: The Last Samurai - 25/11/2006 6:25:02 PM   
max314


Posts: 2764
Joined: 30/9/2005
From: London
The Last Samurai (Zwick, 2003):


"Everyone is polite.  Everyone smiles and bows.  But beneath that courtesy, I detect a deep reservoir of feeling."


For us hardened film fans, it is indeed difficult to get emotional about films, particularly mainstream films.

Yes, we may have our favourite franchises, and yes, we enjoy our formulaic shite just for the sake of it.  But rarely is there a movie that is able to pierce through the cynicism of the hawk-like eyes that veterans of movies have.

The Last Samurai is one of those movies.

The film's heart is undeniable and strong.  The historical accuracy of the film is not the issue, since it's not a documentary.  What is the issue is the quality of the writing, the quality of the acting, and the quality of the directing.  And, in all three categories, it scores top marks.

But there is a fourth category that so many movies made in an arbitrary, by-the-numbers fashion seem to lack.  The most recent Tom Cruise outing, Mission: Impossible III (), for example, hits all the right technical buttons in terms of structure, character, conflict, etc.  But it has little real emotional resonance.  Now, I'm one of the biggest fans of that film, but as the movie draws to an end, you feel relatively emotionless and neutral.  Not good, not bad, just...a little ambivalent.  But as The Last Samurai draws to a close, you feel a feeling of overwhelming emotion.  An emotion that you've not quite felt before.  At once real and ethereal.  At the same time enlightened and humbled.  It's an incredibly visceral reaction that seems to have no real source or raison d'etre.  It's just there, hanging like a heavy cloud, refusing to part.

I went to see the film with my family (we're all big Tom Cruise fans), and we drove home without anyone uttering a word...an unusual event seeing as we're usually nattering about the film we've seen for the rest of the evening.  But we didn't say anything.  On arriving home, the hushed awe just seemed to give way to a flood of overwhelming and emotional praise.  And that's essentially what the film was: overwhelming and emotional.

Tom Cruise's performance was utterly exceptional; a haunting power and sincerity that is beyond words.  Ken Watanabe was also full of presence and gravitas.  All the other actors in their secondary roles fleshed out the movie with such obvious commitment and perfectionism that the world that was created was completely engrossing and allowed you to follow the already-powerful emotional beats with yet more poignancy.

The cinematography is also off the charts.  Some of the compositions here are absolutely breathtaking, and Zwick's use of angles and and lighting typical of so many period Japanese films just adds to creating this beautiful, ethereal aesthetic.  One of the most standout moments is the 'Battle In The Fog' where Algren encounters the Samurai for the very first time.  An example of both outstanding cinematography as well as exellent choreography that succeeds in allowing you to track the battle perfectly.  And this technical excellence is repeated in one action scene after the next, making for a perfectly natural and kinetic feel to the scenes.

Every film is essentially a rift on the basic 'rules' of filmmaking, but as I've learned time and time again, it's not what the rules are, but how you use them.  And to Ed Zwick's credit, he used them very, very well indeed.  Perhaps even better than he had expected.





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RE: The Last Samurai - 25/11/2006 9:45:00 PM   
Dready


Posts: 749
Joined: 30/9/2005
From: Maidstone Toon!
I put off watching this film for ages and only watched it earlier this year as I didnt see Tom Cruise as a Samurai, I thought it was bloody stupid. However, my brother lent me the film and I really enjoyed it, and obviously now see how Mr Cruise ends up being a Samurai.

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RE: The Last Samurai - 5/1/2007 11:46:31 AM   
Timon


Posts: 14588
Joined: 30/9/2005
From: Bristol
He doesn't become a Samurai but he learns their ways and respects their culture. Hopefully Zwick's new film THE BLOOD DIAMOND is just as good.....it looks to be.

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Twitter: @timonsingh

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Post #: 22
RE: The Last Samurai - 5/1/2007 11:51:58 AM   
clownfoot


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From: The ickle town of Fuck, Austria
It's nowhere near as good as the wonderful Glory, and I can think of one thing better than Samurai against Ninja's...

Pirates vs Samurai vs Zombies!

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RE: The Last Samurai - 5/1/2007 11:53:27 AM   
Timon


Posts: 14588
Joined: 30/9/2005
From: Bristol

quote:


Pirates vs Samurai vs Zombies


vs. Native Americans vs. Vikings!

(I'm excited about Pathfinder)

_____________________________

"I put no stock in religion. By the word 'religion', I have seen the lunacy of fanatics of every denomination be called 'The Will of God'. Holiness is in right action and courage on behalf of those who cannot defend themselves."

Twitter: @timonsingh

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Post #: 24
RE: The Last Samurai - 6/1/2007 7:15:41 PM   
Cuchulainn


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From: Hell
Aren't there Oriental pirates in Pirates 3?

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Post #: 25
RE: The Last Samurai - 7/1/2007 1:34:13 AM   
hozay


Posts: 3378
Joined: 13/10/2005
From: the long,dark teatime of the soul
quote:

ORIGINAL: Timon


quote:


Pirates vs Samurai vs Zombies


vs. Native Americans vs. Vikings!

(I'm excited about Pathfinder)


vs. The Three Musketeers.

Excellent post Timon (the first one I mean).
I was very surprised and delighted at just how good The Last Samurai was,not at all what I had expected considering
Hollywoods' usual lack of respect for the cultural sensibilites of other countries.I watched it with my Japanese gf waiting
for some huge and embarrassing cultural gaff that you'd expect from a film like this but it never came and we both enjoyed
it very much.Very impressed also with Mr Cruises' performance and have long been a big fan of the wonderful Watanabe Ken.
I've not met one Japanese person who has any misgivings at all with the film,in fact most of them seem very proud of it and
of course their homegrown actors.
Excellent film.


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Post #: 26
RE: The Last Samurai - 7/1/2007 12:26:10 PM   
Axel Foley


Posts: 731
Joined: 15/10/2005
Well I found what I wrote in the immediate aftermath of my first viewing at the cinema, which suggests i loved it. my opinion has changed since, though I've posted my two pence worth below anyway.

I'd agree that it does offer something more than merely being "Dances with Samurai", but it does follow the format of that superior film pretty closely, though without the elegiac beauty Costner gave his wonderful epic. The samurai way of life may have died out (are you sure Algren wasn't the titular hero - that's the way i interpreted the ending), but there was hope for them to be integrated into modern japanese society, where we know that the sioux were about to massacred on a large scale, which leaves that film with a more tragic air. Really it is more a terrifically exciting action epic, with a standout turn from Ken Watanabe that provides a strong emotional punch.

Anyway here's what the three years younger Foley thought:

The film starts in a standard Cruiser style, with Tom doing Tom and pretending to be drunk and acting a bit mad, but his performance improves all the way through, following the arc of his character as he becomes a changed honourable man. He is also helped by some cleverly done flashbacks, showing the war crimes his character Captain Nathan Algren has committed. This makes the pain he is feeling far more believable than his attempts at drunken rambling. Once in Japan he really catches fire as he starts to immerse himself in Japanese culture.

It is at this point though that we meet the real star of the film, Ken Watanabe playing Samurai chief Katsumoto. He is the heart and soul of the movie, and it is an immensely powerful turn. I can't recall seeing Cruise take a back seat for so much of a film before, but he is put in the shade here. Watanabe is able to use simple facial expressions to take control of scenes and his dialogue is powerfully delivered. When the action comes he is more than up to the task, slashing at ninjas (in perhaps the movies best sequence) as they raid the samurai village and charging lines of rifle wielding troops. He fully conveys the values and coda of the samurai, and it is a performance worthy of awards recognition.

The film itself moves from harsh battle scenes to gentle moments as characters are developed and friendships forged. The growing mutual admiration between Algren and the samurai is well portrayed. Edward Zwick's direction is at times cheesy, but for the most part it is powerful and gets a strong message across, something along the lines of preserving ancient cultures against the tide of growing consumerism, which is certainly relevant in today's climate.

There is one piece of direction I particularly like, when Algren has defeated four opponents, Zwick cuts to Algren replaying it in his mind, shown from a new angle. This finishes with an enemy shown to be still standing as Algren finally finishes him.

There is also some wonderful cinematography of the landscapes and of the epic final battle sequences, as 500 samurai take on the American guns and mortar rounds of the newly formed Japanese army. I thought these were incredibly moving moments, interspersed with some fairly brutal combat. It actually reminded me a bit of the Last of the Mohicans, but raised to another level.

With strong supporting players, there's a decent turn from Timothy Spall as a British expert on Japanese culture as well as numerous Japanese actors filling out the samurai group, The Last Samurai is a very strong package, at times viscerally brutal and honourably emotional. Nine out of Ten!


I sounded too gushing for that opinion to be taken too seriously!

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Post #: 27
RE: The Last Samurai - 14/1/2007 2:29:47 AM   
ca11ey

 

Posts: 23
Joined: 3/1/2006
Great post..! I agree with the majority of what's been said here - I put off watching this film until recently because I'm not Cruise's biggest fan, but I was pleasantly surprised....infact, there's so much more that this film is about...the supporting cast, the cinematography and, last but no means least, the haunting soundtrack...! 

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RE: The Last Samurai - 14/1/2007 10:32:07 PM   
desibeo


Posts: 161
Joined: 24/12/2005
Just in case aliens land and read this thread, I feel the need to stick in a contrary opinion.

It's been a few years since I saw it -and I'm not about to watch it again, but I still remember my pain after sitting through Dances with Samurai -er, sorry, I mean The Last Samurai. The whole thing was a cliché from start to finish. Tom is drunk. Tom goes to Japan. Tom goes to live with the rebels. Tom loves the enemy (because he sees them basketweaving or something). Tom helps the rebels and finds himself. They all die (except Tom if I remember correctly). The end. ...oh no wait... here is some more... The End. ...Oh no, don't get up yet.... THE END.
...Is it over? y-yes? ...Yes -now it is THE END.

It does look nice -from what I recall, but everything else is laughably bad. Characters are 2-dimensional and everybody just talks about how good they are or bad they are or honourable they are.
I also recall a lot of rain. That's not a bad thing in itself -rain happens. But the only reason for the rain here is to demonstrate the emotion lacking in the characters... "jeez he must be really angry here because he's fighting in the rain" and also to fill the screen with "something else"... just in case hitting sticks isn't enough for the audience.


Now I realise I'll be flamed for this and I don't remember enough of it to argue back & forth, but as I said above -I just needed to say that not everybody shares the love for this movie.

For the record, I also didn't like Gladiator -although I'd place it slightly higher than the melodramitc mush that is the subject of this thread.





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Post #: 29
RE: The Last Samurai - 1/3/2007 1:06:51 PM   
adamdavidsmith


Posts: 2558
Joined: 1/12/2005
, great post there Timon. Completely agreewith your thoughts the acting is superb especially from Ken Wantanabe, the score is beautiful (a way of life and the beginning of spectres in the fog oh yeah and a small measure of peace). The action sequences are brilliantly choreographed; especially the samurai vs ninja sequence, the final charge is a potent scene, gets me every time. Most of all it has the right feel/approach; despite being somewhat inaccurate, also as you mentioned it is beautifully shot with beautiful New Zealand scenery (its true), shame it didn't win any oscars for sup actor, set design, make up or costume design but them again it was the year of The King  

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Post #: 30
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