The Last Samurai

2003

The Last Samurai

Critics Consensus

With high production values and thrilling battle scenes, The Last Samurai is a satisfying epic.

66%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 221

83%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 391,935
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The Last Samurai Photos

Movie Info

Edward Zwick returned to the director's chair for the first time since 1998's The Siege with this sweeping period drama set in 19th-century Japan. After centuries of relying on hired samurai for national defense, the Japanese monarchy has decided to do away with the warriors in favor of a more contemporary military. Tom Cruise stars as Nathan Algren, a veteran of the U.S. Civil War who is hired by the Emperor Meiji to train an army capable of wiping out the samurai. But when Algren is captured by the samurai and taught about their history and way of life, he finds himself conflicted over who he should be fighting alongside. Billy Connelly, Tony Goldwyn, and Ken Watanabe co-star. ~ Matthew Tobey, Rovi

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Cast

Tom Cruise
as Capt. Nathan Algren
Ken Watanabe
as Katsumoto
Billy Connolly
as Zebulon Gant
Timothy Spall
as Simon Graham
Tony Goldwyn
as Col. Bagley
Shichinosuke Nakamura
as Emperor Meiji
Koyuki
as Taka
Aoi Minato
as Magojiro
Togo Igawa
as Gen. Hasegawa
William Atherton
as Winchester Rep
Masashi Odate
as Omura's Companion
John Koyama
as Omura's Bodyguard
Scott Wilson
as Ambassador Swanbeck
Shin Koyamada
as Nobutada
Chad Lindberg
as Winchester Rep Assistant
Ray Godshall Sr.
as Convention Hall Attendee
Shintaro Wada
as Young Recruit
Seizo Fukumoto
as Silent Samurai
Shoji Yoshihara
as Sword Master
Kosaburo Nomura IV
as Kyogen Player No. 1
Takashi Noguchi
as Kyogen Player No. 2
Noguchi Takayuki
as Kyogen Player No. 3
Sven Toorvald
as Omura's Secretary
Yuki Matsuzaki
as Soldier in Street No. 1
Mitsuyuki Oishi
as Soldier in Street No. 2
Jiro Wada
as Soldier in Street No. 3
Yusuke Myochin
as Sword Master's Assistant
Kenta Daibo
as Samurai
Koji Fujii
as Samurai
Takashi Kora
as Samurai
Shane Kosugi
as Samurai
Takeshi Maya
as Samurai
Seiji Mori
as Samurai
Lee Murayama
as Samurai
Hisao Takeda
as Samurai
Seizo Fukomoto
as Silent Samurai
Eijiro Ozaki
as Battle Corp
Teishu Kohata
as Battle Corp
Masayuki Maekawa
as Battle Corp
Takanobu Kaneko
as Battle Corp
Osamu Takahashi
as Battle Corp
Masato Tabayashi
as Battle Corp
Akihito Mimatsu
as Battle Corp
Takashi Yamaguchi
as Battle Corp
Akihiro Soen
as Battle Corp
Atsushi Ono
as Battle Corp
Genji Nakamura
as Battle Corp
Toshihiko Ito
as Battle Corp
Kosuke Oda
as Battle Corp
Akira Koieyama
as Battle Corp
Takashi Maeyama
as Battle Corp
Teruhito Takita
as Battle Corp
Hideki Yamaguchi
as Battle Corp
Hidetaro Ishibashi
as Battle Corp
Toru Kadowaki
as Battle Corp
Takeyuki Hirai
as Battle Corp
Takashi Taguchi
as Battle Corp
Misao Kurata
as Battle Corp
Ken Takagaki
as Battle Corp
Matt Okui
as Battle Corp
Chris Chin
as Battle Corp
Koichi Funayama
as Battle Corp
Yuya Nakashima
as Battle Corp
Shinji Matsumoto
as Battle Corp
Naruhito Nakada
as Battle Corp
Toshiaki Ogawa
as Battle Corp
Taiga Etoh
as Battle Corp
Akira Kojima
as Battle Corp
Fred Nakanishi
as Battle Corp
Ryoga Kajiwara
as Battle Corp
Hidetomo Nishida
as Battle Corp
Furuo Geiri
as Battle Corp
James Okada
as Battle Corp
Yoshihiko Kawamoto
as Battle Corp
Yukihiro Hokke
as Battle Corp
Kazunori Yajima
as Battle Corp
Kogi Inoue
as Battle Corp
Satoshi Nakamura
as Battle Corp
Yoshitake Kato
as Battle Corp
Takayuki Akaike
as Battle Corp
Shogo Shirasaka
as Battle Corp
Hiroshi Uenoyama
as Battle Corp
Maeda Jiro
as Battle Corp
Akihiko Nishimura
as Battle Corp
Kiyoshi Iwata
as Battle Corp
Giorgio Miyashita
as Battle Corp
Yasuhiro Koshi
as Battle Corp
Daisuke Sasagawa
as Battle Corp
Kazuya Shimizu
as Battle Corp
Brian Ho
as Battle Corp
Ryo Tanaka
as Battle Corp
Nagamasa Kato
as Battle Corp
Masaki Nishimura
as Battle Corp
Masayoshi Haneda
as Battle Corp
Masayuki Yamada
as Battle Corp
Koichi Ito
as Battle Corp
Hiromi Takatani
as Battle Corp
Mitsunori Omae
as Battle Corp
Yuichiro Sasaki
as Battle Corp
Daisuke Okano
as Battle Corp
Hiroyuki Muraoka
as Battle Corp
Mitsuki Harada
as Battle Corp
Kota Fukuchi
as Battle Corp
Shusuke Mitsuyoshi
as Battle Corp
Tadashi Oiwa
as Battle Corp
Yuhei Kametani
as Battle Corp
Hajime Unesa
as Battle Corp
Yoshihiro Masujima
as Battle Corp
Kenji Motomiya
as Battle Corp
Tetsuro Yamamoto
as Battle Corp
Tomoya Abe
as Battle Corp
Kiyonori Namikawa
as Battle Corp
Raymond Chan
as Battle Corp
Hisataka Kitaoka
as Battle Corp
Joe Kitamura
as Battle Corp
Tadashi Watanabe
as Battle Corp
Mitsuki Koga
as Battle Corp
Masayuki Deai
as Battle Corp
Fumio Matsuki
as Battle Corp
Yuki Kawanishi
as Battle Corp
Masahiro Ogura
as Battle Corp
Masashi Shirai
as Battle Corp
Shinobu Sakurai
as Battle Corp
Nobuhiro Fujita
as Battle Corp
Kiichiro Ishitmoto
as Battle Corp
Susumu Suou
as Battle Corp
Motokuni Nakagawa
as Battle Corp
Shusei Take
as Battle Corp
Kazuma Ohuchi
as Battle Corp
Taku Shinya
as Battle Corp
Keisuke Yamamoto
as Battle Corp
Yasunari Kinbara
as Battle Corp
Naruto Shigemi
as Battle Corp
Hirokazu Miyata
as Battle Corp
Yasuhiro Koshimizu
as Battle Corp
Nobuhiro Oshima
as battle extra platoon leader
Tomohide Tanigawa
as battle extra platoon leader
Yasunari Akita
as battle extra platoon leader
Yoshihisa Asai
as battle extra platoon leader
Toru Ishida
as battle extra platoon leader
Makoto Itô
as battle extra platoon leader
Motohiro Okita
as battle extra platoon leader
Yuki Maekawa
as battle extra platoon leader
Satoru Shibue
as battle extra platoon leader
Ryuji Nakamura
as battle extra platoon leader
Yauo Hiroki
as battle extra platoon leader
Hidemitsu Nakadate
as battle extra platoon leader
Masaki Sono
as battle extra platoon leader
Yuki Tanifuji
as battle extra platoon leader
Hiroki Hoshino
as Battle Corp
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News & Interviews for The Last Samurai

Critic Reviews for The Last Samurai

All Critics (221) | Top Critics (46) | Fresh (146) | Rotten (75)

  • 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.

    Aug 25, 2008 | Full Review…
  • Competently mounted in its studiedly immersive, elongated way, Zwick's earnest costume epic dresses a knee-jerk, reactionary sensibility in exotic garb.

    Jun 24, 2006 | Full Review…

    Geoff Andrew

    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • 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.

    Aug 7, 2004
  • Zwick is attracted to the notions of victory in defeat and the romantic purity of self-sacrifice. His film is, however, a trifle earnest and overlong.

    Jan 15, 2004 | Full Review…

    Philip French

    Guardian
    Top Critic
  • 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.

    Dec 23, 2003

    Todd McCarthy

    Variety
    Top Critic
  • There are pleasures to be had in the handsome, heroic The Last Samurai. But they're all on the surface.

    Dec 16, 2003

    David Ansen

    Newsweek
    Top Critic

Audience Reviews for The Last Samurai

  • Mar 11, 2016
    This movie is far from perfect. A predictable plot and unnecessary love interest hurt the experience, and the lack of subtitles for scenes entirely in another language can be frustrating. That being said, The Last Samurai has a lot to like. Tom Cruise is, as always, captivating, and Ken Watanabe earns his Oscar nomination. The chemistry between these two feels natural, as if they truly have a brotherly bond. The cinematography and costume design add a sense of authenticity. Hans Zimmer created another great soundtrack fitting of the time period. If you enjoy action flicks or Tom Cruise, give this movie a watch.
    Ben B Super Reviewer
  • Apr 19, 2013
    A fascinating and inspiring epic, The Last Samurai is a powerful film. The story follows a disillusioned Civil War veteran who's recruited to train the Japanese army in Western warfare as they prepare to take on a Samurai rebellion. Tom Cruise and Ken Watanabe lead the cast and give excellent performances. The directing is also quite remarkable, and captures the spiritual aspects of nature and of the Samurai culture. Additionally, the writing does an effective job at depicting the culture clashes, and at developing the characters. The score by Hans Zimmer is brilliantly done as well, perfectly complementing the film and enhancing the themes. The Last Samurai is a smart and passionate drama that's well-crafted and compelling.
    Dann M Super Reviewer
  • Mar 19, 2013
    "The Last Samurai" (at least for me) falls in the same category as "Troy" for being a good film, but lacking emotional resonate. Just like "Troy" the acting, the high production values, and big scale battles outdo any hiccups from the plot. The Last Samurai follows an American military advisor embracing the Samurai culture he was hired to destroy after he is captured in battle. The story is serviceable at best. Its slow pace is fitting since the protagonist is adsorbing Japan culture. This gives the audience a good idea of the protagonist steady transformation over the course of the film. However, even the film protagonist suffers from some cliche traits. Haunted by past demons, a chance of redemption, being an alcoholic, and a new found sense of honor. The whole plot is like this. For every good idea it has there is some negative to it. The primary one being an examination on war which the film has no clear stance on. The protagonist is haunted by his previous war experiences, but embraces a culture that fight with honor in war. From a viewer standpoint should we applaud the hero fighting to a keep a culture alive or be worried that our hero has not learn a nothing from his past experiences. It's this kind of uneven writing that contribute to it emotional detachment. The acting is top notch from the American and Japanese cast. Tom Cruise does play a rather cliche flawed hero, but makes the hero worth following. He never over plays his character almost as if Cruise knows the hero has been done to death. Cruise co-star Ken Wantanabe outshines him. He is able to hide his character confuse emotion perfectly. The intensity of his looks and the conviction of his lines make him shine brighter than Cruise. The villains played by Spall and Connolly are colorful, but contribute little. The same could be said with actress Koyuki who's given little to work with and not enough time to go beyond a one dimensional character. The splendid cinematography captures the well orchestrated battle scenes giving them a sense of scope and raw feel to them. These battle scenes won't stack up against a Kurosawa epic or 13 Assassins, but the battle scenes are a stunning sight to behold. The costumes are nicely detailed and even the samurai armors look convincing down to the smallest piece. The Last Samurai writing is mixed, but everything else from acting to production values justify its two and a half hour running time. You might not be emotionally invested into the film, but you will be satisfy with this epic that captures the look and entertainment of a epic.
    Caesar M Super Reviewer
  • Aug 17, 2012
    Ha, Tom Cruise as a Japanese samurai; I suppose the next thing you're going to tell me is that he just turned fifty. No, I'm kidding, I know that Cruise isn't going David Carradine from "Kung Fu" on us, and thank goodness too, because that beard on his, or rather, "the" definitive baby face is unconvincing enough. Tom Cruise has indeed faced truly "impossible missions", like convincing people that he's not actually Xenu (Seriously, why won't he get old?), but facial hair, on the other hand, is a whole different story, brother. Okay, I suppose you get used to it after a while, but really, looking at Cruise in this film and Matthew Broderick in "Glory", I think that it's safe to say that Edward Zwick just loves slapping unconvincing facial hair on baby-faced actors (Except for DiCaprio in "Blood Diamond", though that's just because DiCaprio makes everything convincing). Shoot, as Brad Pitt made clear with that middle-aged glam-rocker do in "Legends of the Fall", Zwick just seems to love putting unconvincing hair of any kind on actors of any kind, and I say actors of any kind because Pitt doesn't so much have a baby face anymore, though that might just either be the baggage that you can expect from being Robert Redford's clone (Of all celebrities to age fast and not that well) or because Tom Cruise stole Pitt's youth in "Interview with the Vampire". Okay, seriously, I can go on all day with these Tom Cruise baby face jokes, and lord knows I would if my reviews weren't overlong enough, but hey, I've got to give it up to him that he's managed keep looking cool enough to pull off some awesome action, though definately not cool enough to pull off that...- yeah, well, you get the point. He's certainly cool enough carry this film, or at least stand among the many strengths that keeps this film running until it's "last" (sorry for that stretch) breath, which isn't to say that the film doesn't go winded by more than a few things along the way. Edward Zwick is quite decidedly a slow storyteller who will sometimes dip as low as dull, yet typically just doesn't deliver on a whole lot of bite or momentum, as this film's development segment further proves, for although it is quite a distance from dull, it is steady to a fault, though that, at the very least, is exactly what you'll be begging for once the development segment concludes and leaves the film to take an unexpected tremendous drop in momentum through a sudden burst of sobriety within the atmosphere. The body of the film rarely descends as low as dull, and reasonably picks back up on more than a few occasions, yet it does still have those occasions of dullness in the midst of consistent dryness that slows the film's steam down nearly to a crawl, and certainly to an often disengaging state. Zwick almost always tackles extremely promising projects, only to end up squandering potential through one kind of glaring misstep or another, and this film's slowness, all but alone, squanders its potential, doing so with the help of something else that Zwick all too often falls into: being too theatrical for his own good, as Zwick tends to drench his films in a consistent degree of overambition, or rather, glorification, until he hits the occasional dramatic note that he propels nearly past its breaking point, dropping his films into sweeping sentimentality that suddenly spikes momentum perhaps too high, which not only leaves the subsequent drastic drops in momentum as the film comes down from its dramatic high rather off-putting (Seriously, how many endings did "Blood Diamond" have?), but dilutes genuine dramatic effectiveness. That doesn't happen terribly often here, yet it does happen quite a number of times, as Zwick taints the film with a consistent degree of subtlety-damaging glorification, broken up by sentimentality that ranges from often disconcerting to occasionally near-cloying, while giving this film too much steam at one time, until you're left a little bit exhausted by the time we plummet back into the slowness, which now seems even slower. It's made all the worse by conventions, for although this film's basic concepts are, in quite a few ways, rather unique, that concept goes plagued by a couple of cliches that either grow more and more prevalent as the film progresses or go brought more and more to attention by Zwick's pronounced lack of subtlety. Either way, the film often treads familiar ground, until, after a while, it falls too deeply into a formula that we've seen time and again and makes it hardly hard to guess the rest, and, as you can say about nearly all other Ed Zwick films, it deserves better, yet just ends up held back by the slowness and overambition that has diluted the punch of many a potentially upstanding film that Zwick has done prior and since. That being said, Zwick rarely crafts an underwhelming film, for although he taints his visions to no end, his visions often go graced by compensation that brings the worthiness of Zwick's projects to attention just enough for you to walk away, not nearly as rewarded as you would hope, yet rewarded nevertheless, and this film is no exception to that rule. Nothing short of outstanding, the production designs reconstruct a lost era with impressive authenticity that catches your eye, supplements the believability and effectiveness of the film's substance and provides a dynamic vastness that compliments the film's sharp action sequences, which go cleverly staged, slickly choreographed and well-edited and provide genuine thrills, yet not expense of well-formed intensity that gives the action dramatic weight, because in the heat of battle, Edward Zwick tends to find his grip on resonance and leave the action to both dazzle and breathe life into the substance it's built around, which is something that can be said about the visual touches, and not just within the action. John Toll returns as Ed Zwick's go-to cinematographer and delivers as sharply as he always does, gracing the film with a lighting that marries both lushness and grit in order to fit the tone and catch your eye on any occasion, while delivering on scope that marries both a degree of broadness and a degree of tightness, giving this film is reasonably engaging epic sweep, while keeping intimate with the environment and atmosphere in order supplement the film's tones and depth. Another man who dazzles and firmly supplements the tone is, of course, my main music man, the great Hans Zimmer (A samurai film with American filmmakers, a lot of Asian cast members, a cast member as English as Timothy Spall and a German score composer; this film is multicultural as all get-out), whose spirited efforts often go misused by Zwick to exacerbate glorification and sentimentality, yet remain spirited nevertheless, as Zimmer renders his work hardly recognizable by playing with various unique combinations of good old fashion Japanese music and universal contemporary sensibilities, yet not at the expense of his trademark dynamic sweep, thus creating grand score work that doesn't simply fit the tones and themes, but amplifies them. Of course, with all of the sharpness of John Toll's and Hans Zimmer's work, they would have nothing to supplement were it not for the work of a certain other John (Hans was originally short for Johannes, which means John; you kids just got yourselves learnt), John Logan, whose story concepts are indeed worthy, with unique touches and complex depths that sadly go tainted by the conventions and other missteps within Logan's and Ed Zwick's flawed screenplay, which, even then, remains fairly strong, boasting a couple of occasions of memorably sharp dialogue, as well as lively characterization and story structure that may be familiar, yet remains reasonably worthy. The screenplay is flawed, though hits more often than not, only to find itself rather betrayed by Ed Zwick's directorial execution, which is indeed flawed, and yet, not without some high points, as Zwick does, as I said, find a grip on resonance during action, but also finds a grip on resonance when he needs to most, because with all of the film's sentimental moments and dramatic faults, when Zwick finds the proper string to pluck, he really delivers, partially with the help of the performances, particularly that of leading man Tom Cruise. True, Cruise's performance goes held back by a moderate miscast (Seriously, they should have gotten someone who can pull off that beard), as well as by the often superficial writing and direction that I spent almost all of the last paragraph and much of this paragraph going on and on about, yet still compels, as Cruise portrays the initial trauma, fierce alcoholism and broken frustration of the Nathan Algren with a striking presence and emotional range that he plays with rather skillfully as he conveys Algren's finding redemption, fear, revelation and other defining experiences and changes as the story unravels, thus making for a compelling lead performance that leaves Cruise to help in making the overall film itself as compelling as it ultimately is. The film makes many right moves, yet Zwick undercuts most all of them with his overambition and many collapses into superficiality, and that's a shame and all, yet the fact of the matter is that the film does make many right moves, and just enough for the good to well outweigh the not so good and create an epic that may not hit as much as it should have, yet boasts the occasions of genuineness, fair deal of style and consistent enjoyability needed to reward at the end of the day. In conclusion, the potentially upstanding project falls victim to Edward Zwick's trademark missteps of extended periods of slowness, if not all-out dryness, as well as overambition-driven atmospheric faults, from moments of overwhelming sentimentality to a consistent aura of pronounced unsubtlety that brings more to attention the many various story conventions and cliches that render the worthy story often predictable and help in leaving the overall final product to fall a ways behind its potential, yet still hold its own with the help of stellar production designs and action sequences, as well by striking, sweeping and lively cinematography by John Toll and score work by Hans Zimmer that supplement the tones and themes behind the story John Logan conceives well and structures reasonably well, with the hit-or-miss screenwriting assistance of director Ed Zwick, whose occasional moments of genuinely effective resonance, made all the stronger by inspired performances - particularly that of a miscast and directorially restrained, yet generally compelling Tom Cruise -, spark enough essence in "The Last Samurai" to help in making it a generally enjoyable and ultimately worthwhile epic, even with its udercutting shortcomings. 3/5 - Good
    Cameron J Super Reviewer

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