The Last Samurai Reviews

Top Critic
Richard Schickel
TIME Magazine
August 25, 2008
It's easy to stand back and wax ironic about The Last Samurai. But it's not all that difficult to succumb to its full-spirited romanticism either.
Top Critic
Geoff Andrew
Time Out
June 24, 2006
Competently mounted in its studiedly immersive, elongated way, Zwick's earnest costume epic dresses a knee-jerk, reactionary sensibility in exotic garb.
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Peter Rainer
New York Magazine/Vulture
August 7, 2004
The Last Samurai is an idyll in which the savageries of existence are transcended by spiritual devotion. That's a beautiful dream, and it gives the film a deep pleasingness, but the fullness of life and its blackest ambiguities are sacrificed.
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Todd McCarthy
Variety
December 23, 2003
Disappointingly content to recycle familiar attitudes about the nobility of ancient cultures, Western despoilment of them, liberal historical guilt, the unrestrainable greed of capitalists and the irreducible primacy of Hollywood movie stars.
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David Ansen
Newsweek
December 16, 2003
There are pleasures to be had in the handsome, heroic The Last Samurai. But they're all on the surface.
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Peter Travers
Rolling Stone
December 12, 2003
The script lays on hokey narration and bombastic dialogue.
| Original Score: 2/4
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Rex Reed
New York Observer
December 10, 2003
Even though The Last Samurai is brutal, exhausting and so not my kind of movie, it is extremely well-made and undeniably engrossing.
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Stephanie Zacharek
Salon.com
December 6, 2003
A benumbed epic with an action figure for a hero.
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Desson Thomson
Washington Post
December 5, 2003
Despite its intelligent agenda, swollen heart and fabulously epic surface, amounts to a didactic banality: a white guy's politically correct lesson abroad.
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Stephen Hunter
Washington Post
December 5, 2003
It's wannabe-ism on a multimillion-dollar scale, with an icon of Japanese culture somehow crudely penetrated by an interloper and turned inside out.
Top Critic
Geoff Pevere
Toronto Star
December 5, 2003
It looks great in a costume spectacle way, and it has some truly terrific action sequences.
Full Review | Original Score: 3/5
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Moira MacDonald
Seattle Times
December 5, 2003
As movie-star vehicles go, Last Samurai is a fine, well-crafted example.
Full Review | Original Score: 3/4
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Mick LaSalle
San Francisco Chronicle
December 5, 2003
Cruise's undeniable star voltage makes it all palatable, and the film is gorgeous to behold and even to listen to.
Full Review | Original Score: 3/4
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Roger Moore
Orlando Sentinel
December 5, 2003
Grand and undersized, truncated and overlong, The Last Samurai reminds us just enough of what epics used to be to disappoint.
Full Review | Original Score: 3/5
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Stephen Whitty
Newark Star-Ledger
December 5, 2003
It's not a great or even particularly provocative drama, but it is well made, and one that adult adventure fans can go to without embarrassment.
Top Critic
Jack Mathews
New York Daily News
December 5, 2003
Cruise isn't horribly miscast, a la Tony Curtis in The Son of Ali Baba or John Wayne as Genghis Khan in The Conqueror, but he doesn't miss by far.
Full Review | Original Score: 2.5/4
Top Critic
Connie Ogle
Miami Herald
December 5, 2003
Too much surface and not enough depth.
Full Review | Original Score: 2/4
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Eric Harrison
Houston Chronicle
December 5, 2003
Despite the slow-moving and overly reverential parts, Algren's passage from bitter, self-loathing alcoholic to a man renewed and committed is emotionally satisfying in a way many bloated recent Hollywood productions can't accomplish.
Full Review | Original Score: C+
Top Critic
Liam Lacey
Globe and Mail
December 5, 2003
Grandly overblown and deeply cornball, The Last Samurai is a visually detailed historical recreation of 19th-century Japan that's as thin as rice paper in ideas.
Full Review | Original Score: 2.5/4
Top Critic
Tom Long
Detroit News
December 5, 2003
This is one of those films that decries war while reveling in it, that praises the purity of the noble savage and then slays him, exulting in the blood while worrying over the act.
| Original Score: D
Top Critic
Lisa Kennedy
Denver Post
December 5, 2003
Nearly all of The Last Samurai's deficiencies spring from the screenplay... As respectful as it is about the similarities of different cultures, it also doesn't quite elude an aura of noble otherness.
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Boston Globe
December 5, 2003
Big and square and rousing, Edward Zwick's epic drama has been brought to the screen with all the muscle and splendor Hollywood can call up.
Full Review | Original Score: 3/4
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St. Louis Post-Dispatch
December 5, 2003
Top Critic
Lou Lumenick
New York Post
December 5, 2003
A pandering epic that's as phony as it is condescending.
| Original Score: 2/4
Top Critic
Robert Denerstein
Denver Rocky Mountain News
December 5, 2003
The movie's worth seeing for scenery, costumes, exoticism and a final battle sequence that more than delivers the goods.
| Original Score: B-
Top Critic
Roger Ebert
Chicago Sun-Times
December 5, 2003
Beautifully designed, intelligently written, acted with conviction, it's an uncommonly thoughtful epic.
Full Review | Original Score: 3.5/4
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Terry Lawson
Detroit Free Press
December 4, 2003
Mostly it just reminds us anew how difficult it is to make convincing entertainment on a grandiose scale, especially when all involved are taking themselves so terribly seriously.
Full Review | Original Score: 2/4
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Bruce Newman
San Jose Mercury News
December 4, 2003
Cruise's performance is all smartly pressed, shiny surfaces, spotless even when they should be stained by the blood and tears of dramatic transformation.
| Original Score: 2.5/4
Top Critic
Manohla Dargis
Los Angeles Times
December 4, 2003
Taken on the level of spectacle rather than of sense, The Last Samurai affords the sort of fizzy enjoyment that can come with epic movie endeavors.
Full Review | Original Score: 3/5
Top Critic
Elvis Mitchell
New York Times
December 4, 2003
The uneven Samurai is a can-do movie that's far more effective at communicating emotion in bigger scenes than in more intimate ones.
Full Review | Original Score: 3/5
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Philip Wuntch
Dallas Morning News
December 4, 2003
It has the flourish and even the delicacy of those whose life it celebrates.
Full Review | Original Score: B+
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Bill Muller
Arizona Republic
December 4, 2003
A splendid, robust historical drama.
| Original Score: 4.5/5
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USA Today
December 4, 2003
It's all so stolid and humorless, even the scenes in San Francisco, without compensating epic sweep.
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Steven Rea
Philadelphia Inquirer
December 4, 2003
It's not just Hollywood convention that gets in the way of the story, it's the lack of depth, heft and heart at its core.
| Original Score: 2.5/4
Top Critic
Jan Stuart
Newsday
December 4, 2003
Through it all, Tom Cruise stares soulfully past the camera, on toward a catering truck where sushi rolls and ham sandwiches dwell side by side in harmony.
Full Review | Original Score: 2.5/4
Top Critic
Jeff Strickler
Minneapolis Star Tribune
December 4, 2003
As the story evolves into a drama with as much heart as muscle, Cruise adapts with it.
Full Review | Original Score: 3.5/4
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Scott Foundas
L.A. Weekly
December 4, 2003
The only history that bears a real influence on The Last Samurai is the history of Hollywood moviemaking, and the unfortunate way it has of turning extraordinary stories into hopelessly ordinary ones.
Top Critic
December 4, 2003
A spectacular epic adventure, and Cruise is stunning as Captain Nathan Algren.
Top Critic
Michael Wilmington
Chicago Tribune
December 4, 2003
A stunning spectacle of cultural violence and a loving tribute to the great Japanese samurai movies.
Full Review | Original Score: 3/4
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Eleanor Ringel Gillespie
Atlanta Journal-Constitution
December 4, 2003
A handsome, well-crafted production with strong work by the magnetic Watanabe and by Cruise, who continues to make riskier choices than he needs to.
Full Review | Original Score: B
Top Critic
James Berardinelli
ReelViews
December 2, 2003
The Last Samurai earns every minute of its near two-and-one-half hour running length. There's no fat to trim, and no sense that scenes have been included to pad the ego of the director and/or his star.
Full Review | Original Score: 3.5/4
Top Critic
J. Hoberman
Village Voice
December 2, 2003
The least one can say for this costume action flick is that it hits bottom immediately.
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Kirk Honeycutt
Hollywood Reporter
December 1, 2003
A movie that successfully merges a Western with a samurai movie.
Top Critic
Lisa Schwarzbaum
Entertainment Weekly
November 26, 2003
A handsome epic.
Full Review | Original Score: B
Top Critic
Richard Roeper
Ebert & Roeper
November 24, 2003
An intelligent action film.