Coming soon has an early positive review for The Last Samurai
“I recently had the pleasure of watching, at an advance screening in Phoenix, Edward Zwicks’ “The Last Samurai” starring Tom Cruise, Ken Watanabe, Koyuki, Billy Connelly and Timothy Spall.
The Last Samurai is an exhilirating story about Captain Woodrow Algren (Tom Cruise) who is a Civil War veteran. He is hired by the US government to help Japan construct a modern army. They are not aware of the fact that Captain Algren is actually an alcoholic who is suffering from severe depression due to the trauma he suffered in Civil War.
During that time, Japan is divided into many provinces ruled by the samurai. The samurai were considered to be the protectors of Japan and they were loyal to the royal family. The Emperor Meiji(Shichinosuke Nakamura) wanted to unite all these provinces for various reasons, the most important being money because he will profit when the United Sates and other Western nations and companies purchase goods from them.
The United States wanted to help Japan because Emperor Meiji assured the United States a most favored nation trading status if they help him modernize Japan. Japan is attempting to build railroad in the mountainous region ruled by the samurai but was unable to do so because of some rebelious samurai. Emperor Meiji threaten the samurai with his new build army and the samurai fought back.
The rebel samurai are lead by Katsumoto (Ken Watanabe) who is a respected warrior and admired by his army of 500 samurai. They live in a village with their families. They show us how the samurai live as a community in villages. Beside Katsumoto who is a fierce warrior we get to know a few other characters.
Then in the year 1876, Captain Algren arrives in Japan and begins his tasks as an advisor to the Japanese government. With the help of Simon Graham (Timothy Spall) who is his English translator, he trains the army. After a month he is ordered to take his army to attack the samurai in the mountain region where they lived. Captain Algren’s ill-trained army was massacred. He is severely wounded in the battle and taken captive by Katsumoto who did not want to kill him because he wanted to study his new enemy so that he could understand whom he is fighting.
After many months of recuperating Algren is allowed by Katsumoto to roam freely throughout the village. Algren begins to understand and respect his captors. He is trained in their ways of fighting and thinking.
The final scene is one of the fiercest battle I have seen in some time. Algren is now fighting for his new family against an army that outnumbers them, but at the same time, a rather emotional moment.
When I first heard of the film, I showed no interest, thinking of another Zwick “Legend of the fall” or your average Tom Cruise action flick. Nor am I a big Cruise fan. And when I first saw the teaser in the theater a while back, I thought the whole thing was a bit on the ridiculous, Hollywood’s-at-it-again side. However, I just got to see the movie, and I was completely blown away. It’s actually very, very good and quite a departure from the normal condescending manner that Hollywood tends to adopt toward foreign cultures.
The soul of the film and my favorite performance was given by Tom Cruise, of course. I mentioned earlier I wasn’t his biggest fan, but this movie truly changed my mind. I find him to be quite an underrated one, in terms of what I read about his acting abilities. His screen presence is completely unmatched in the business today. Take Paul Newman, Dustin Hoffman, Cary Grant and Clark Gable and you got Tom Cruise. I think the fact he is so popular and has a huge star aura (Tom Cruise the overrated Mission Impossible movie star) tends to distract most people from Tom Cruise the great American actor. He has the ability to communicate a lot of emotions with one single facial expression- a technique not taught in acting school at all.
At first, I thought Cruise made a bad mistake in dropping out of Cold Mountain for this one, but since reading Cold Mountain’s awful script and lukewarm first reviews, I think he might have made the right decision after all.
Billy Connelly is unintentionally charming and effortless in the film. However, the biggest surprise for me was Ken Watanabe. I was very impressed with Ken Watanbe’s quiet and understated, yet powerful characterization of the samurai leader. I found his style very reminiscent of the absolutely incredible Toshiro Mifune. He has the same amazing screen presence. His acting is very refreshing compare to the chop-socky style of the Jackie Chan and Jet Li’s of hollywood.
As I said already, the battle scenes are quite impressive. However, this movie is far from just an action flick. The human aspect elevates it far above that level.
All in all, I give the film **** out of ****. John Toll’s breathtaking vistas are alone worth the ticket price.
And Ruffalo Replacing Kilmer in Collateral
Mark Ruffalo (In the Cut) is in talks to replace Val Kilmer in Michael Mann’s Collateral opposite Tom Cruise for DreamWorks Pictures.
The project, written by Stuart Beattie, stars Cruise as a contract killer who forces a taxi driver (Jamie Foxx) to chauffeur him around on a series of hits.
Ruffalo would play a detective on the heels of Cruise’s character. Jada Pinkett Smith, Dennis Farina and Irma Hall round out the cast.
BTW, Collateral starts shooting today in LA