The Last Samurai (2003) Movie Review Summary

Actors: Tom Cruise

Detailed plot synopsis reviews of The Last Samurai (2003)

A Civil War veteran, Nathan Algren, is sent to Japan to train troops to fight for the emperor. He begins to train the troops. During a battle Nathan is captured by the Samurai. At their camp he grows to like them and their style of war and fighting. He then joins them and goes against his old troops.
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The review of this Movie prepared by Jack Bauer

Some war stories make you feel the tragedy of war regardless of your sympathies, and this is one of them. Nathan is a captain in the US army who has seen too much senseless killing of innocent American Indians in the subduing of the Wild West. Now he crawls inside a bottle to escape the horrors of his conscience.

But his account of fighting the Indians has reached the Emperor of Japan, who has a similar culture clash of his own to handle. He wishes to modernise his country but his own most faithful elite troops, the Samurai, do not wish to give up the old ways as they sense this will be the downfall of all they value and respect. 'Samurai' means service, and they above all serve the emperor and all he has ever stood for. They cannot accept the changes taking place as (then as now), they are the highest class of a rigidly codified honour-shame culture. They become a formidable renegade fighting force and the emperor needs American help from those who know how to fight this type of war. And Nathan is too poor to refuse the work.

In Japan he trains the emperor's new army, but they are put into the field for their first encounter with their new guns too early. The Samurai have bows and arrows, swords, and 1000 years of fighting spirit. The greenhorns are slaughtered and Nathan is captured. But in captivity he learns that the Samurai way is greatly to be honoured and respected. Their love for the old ways and all they hold dear is not to swept away in a hail of bullets. They will all die a death of honour rather than live a life of shame. Nathan joins the Samurai and learns self-respect again in commitment to a greater cause. But they cannot win. The second confrontation will be the final one: eventually the last Samurai will fall, never more to serve.

The review of this Movie prepared by Michael JR Jose

Tom Cruise is Nathan Algren, a worn down alcoholic war veteran who suffers from guilt over the American Indians he slaughtered under General Custer's command. He's hired by an advisor to the Japanese Emporer to teach the Japanese army how to fight against and exstinguish Samurai rebels. But when the Samurai take him prisoner in battle, Nathan learns what a good and honorable people they are. Transformed by their way of life, he devotes himself to their cause and becomes a Samurai himself.
The review of this Movie prepared by Chris Burnham

By 1876, Civil War hero Captain Nathan Algren (Cruise) has been reduced to performing in side shows to promote the sale of Winchester rifles. Plagued by a massacre of an Indian village under orders by his superior, Colonel Bagley, Algren drinks and hates himself. Bagley and Algren are hired by the Japanese government to teach the army how to employ modern weapons and techniques of war. The former warrior class in service of the emperor, the samurai, have been disenfranchised and outlawed, and have taken to the hills to pursue a guerilla war in which they believe they still serve the emperor (young forward-thinking Meiji) against the new technologically-minded and Western-looking ruling class. The samurai rebels easily defeat the unprepared Japanese army in battle, and the wounded Algren is taken prisoner. Given much of the ensuing fall and winter to recover in captivity in a hidden mountain village, Algren gets to know his enemy, the dignified and honorable Katsumoto (Watanabe), as well as the wife and children of the samurai he killed in battle. Algren's understanding of the conflict -- and his loyalties -- begin to shift, and the former enemies unite against the government of Japan. This is an old fashioned epic of the sort director Edward Zwick has favored ("Once and Again," "Legends of the Fall," "Glory"), but it has a strong, still center, and avoids cliches. The story by John Logan, who has stumbled in the past with "Star Trek:Nemesis" and "The Time Machine," is superb and the acting (especially the Japanese) is awesome. This one deserves a wide audience.
The review of this Movie prepared by David Loftus

Script Analysis of The Last Samurai (2003)

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Plot & Themes

Time/era of movie:    -   1600 to 1899 Inner struggle or disability    -   Yes Struggle with    -   conduct in war Job/Profession/Poverty Story?    -   Yes Job:    -   soldier Ethnic/Regional/Gender story?    -   Yes Ethnic/region/relig    -   Japanese

Main Character

Identity:    -   Male Profession/status:    -   infantry soldier Age:    -   20's-30's Ethnicity/Nationality    -   White American


United States    -   Yes Asia/Pacific/Middle East    -   Yes Asian country:    -   Japan Misc setting    -   fort/military installation

Writing Style

Accounts of torture and death?    -   explicit references to deaths

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