Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Last Samurai

A great film. In the 1870s, Captain Nathan Algren, a cynical veteran of the American Civil war who will work for anyone, is hired by Americans who want lucrative contracts with the Emperor of Japan to train the peasant conscripts for the first standing imperial army in modern warfare using firearms. The imperial Omura cabinet's first priority is to repress a rebellion of traditionalist Samurai -hereditary warriors- who remain devoted to the sacred dynasty but reject the Westernizing policy and even refuse firearms. Yet when his ill-prepared superior force sets out too soon, their panic allows the sword-wielding samurai to crush them. Badly wounded Algren's courageous stand makes the samurai leader Katsumoto spare his life; once nursed to health he learns to know and respect the old Japanese way, and participates as advisor in Katsumoto's failed attempt to save the Bushido tradition.The Last Samurai is a 2003 American epic drama film directed and co-produced by Edward Zwick, who also co-wrote the screenplay based on a story by John Logan. The film was inspired by a project developed by writer and director Vincent Ward, who had previously filmed the movie in 1990, starring Lance Hendriksen, John Fujioka, and John Saxon. Ward became executive producer on the film – working in development on it for nearly four years and after approaching several directors (Coppola, Weir), he interested Edward Zwick. The film production went ahead with Zwick and was shot in Ward’s native New ZealandThe film stars Tom Cruise (who also co-produced) in the role of American soldier Nathan Algren, whose personal and emotional conflicts bring him into contact with samurai warriors in the wake of the Meiji Restoration in the Empire of Japan in 1876 and 1877. Other actors include Ken Watanabe, Shin Koyamada, Tony Goldwyn, Hiroyuki Sanada, Timothy Spall, and Billy Connolly. The film's plot was inspired by the 1877 Satsuma Rebellion led by Saigo Takamori, and also on the stories of Jules Brunet, a French Army captain who fought alongside Enomoto Takeaki in the earlier Boshin War and Frederick Townsend Ward, an American mercenary who helped Westernize the Chinese army by forming the Ever Victorious ArmyThe historical roles of the British Empire, the Netherlands and France in Japanese westernization are largely attributed to the United States in the film. These details, characters in the film and the real story are simplified for plot purposes and to maximize income from US audiences; the film does not seek to duplicate history. The Last Samurai was well received upon release, with a worldwide box office of $456 million. In addition it was nominated for several awards, including the Academy Awards, the Golden Globes and the National Board of Review. 

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