Wednesday, January 07, 2004

Continuing movies on vacation - The Last Samurai 

The Last Samurai was also excellent, although I'd rate Cold Mountain (see below) higher overall. The Last Samurai stars Tom Cruise as former Union Army Captain Nathan Algren, who was in the 7th Cavalry under Custer during the horrific campaigns against Native Americans. Just after having an alcohol assisted meltdown while demonstrating the Winchester rifle to a crowd eager to see a "genuine hero," Algren is approached by his former commanding officer to travel to Japan in order to train the Japanese army.

While in Japan, Algren continues to clash with his commanding officer, and is captured during battle against the remaining Samurai warriors. During his stay in their remote village (he must remain until the spring), he learns of their culture, attempts to deal with his own past rather than numbing the memories, and develops an internal value system that functions beyond the next payday.

While at times Algren is portrayed a little too much as the troubled but still heroic soldier seeking honor, fortunately the film doesn't fall into the trap of holding up the "other" culture as perfectly noble and enlightened while vilifying the West as the sole haven for greedy capitalist exploiters... Okay, so maybe it goes there a little bit, but overall the two cultures are portrayed as being only as good or bad as the individuals within it. Those individuals are a mixed lot, as is any society.

Reality Check: The Girl enjoyed this movie, even though it's both a period piece and involves samurai-fu action sequences. She wouldn't rush out to see it again, but she went willingly and didn't regret it.

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Posted by Beth Henderson at 9:42 AM