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Cruise along with Tom in "The Last Samurai"
By Tiantian C. Wang, Grade 12, Westmount Secondary, Hamilton, ON

The movie "The Last Samurai" is Tom Cruise's latest film since the release of "Vanilla Sky" in 2001, where Tom met former love Penelope Cruz and went public with the relationship before the ink was even dry on his divorce papers with actress Nicole Kidman.

In his new film, Tom Cruise takes on a new role; he is American Captain Nathan Algren, a man with a lost soul. He drifts away from reality, as his country once filled with honour and courage is now slowly being replaced with pragmatism. This all changed when he is hired by the young Japanese Emperor to train Japan's first modern and conscript army. The young Emperor is deeply influenced by foreign powers, he ‘chose' to end the way of the Samurai and make Japan a modern country. The Samurais are warriors who dedicate their lives to serve the emperor and country. Katsumoto, played by Ken Watanabe, is the last leader of this ancient line of warriors.

Katsumoto and Algren's world met when Algren is ordered by his superior Colonel Bagley to attack the Samurais, who fear that Japan will be controlled by powerful foreign countries if it becomes Westernized. Captured in their first encounter, Algren finds himself impressed by his enemies. It is here that he had his first good nights sleep in many years. In this harsh and foreign place, the disturbed Algren finds himself in the middle of a classic struggle between two completely different worlds.

This movie is not your typical epic film, but rather a film with heart and that, in my opinion, is the most important aspect of a film. Director, writer and producer Edward Zwick did an amazing job; just his understanding of the Japanese culture is unbelievable. The setting and atmosphere in the film truly reflects Japan around the turn of the 20th century.

The supporting cast members also added sparks to the film. Timothy Spall and Billy Connolly are fantastic as Simon Graham and Zebulon Gant. Koyuki is magnificent as Taka, Algren's love interest. Their only kiss in the film comes before the final battle between the Japanese army and the Samurais, it contained the subtle and extraordinary love that Taka and Algren shared. With fears in her eyes, Taka had to watch Algren go, knowing the overwhelming odds of him not ever returning.

"The Last Samurai" is one of my favorite movies; it is up there with "Gone With the Wind" and "Titanic". I recommend this film to people who enjoy action mixed with a hint of romance, and culture. I give Tom Cruise's new flick, four and a half out of five rings.


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