Tom Cruise is currently enjoying the most successful film of his career. Top: Gun Maverick is killing the competition, and has surpassed $1 billion in global box office numbers. However, long before the sequel to one of the cheesiest 1980s films was thought of, Cruise was in a far different action film. This action film is considered controversial these days, as the subject matter for the plot is a bit troublesome. However, despite that film being labeled as controversial, it is still a good watch. We are talking about The Last Samurai. The Last Samurai is set to leave Netflix soon, so fans will want to watch this film before it is too late.
To point out the obvious, this same story has been used and reused in a great many projects. You have the traveling or unnaturally placed antagonist, who doesnt understand culture all that much. This person is then thrust into a bipolar opposite culture, falls in love with the culture, then wants to defend that culture. Dances with Wolves, Avatar, The Last Samurai, and The Smurfs. Yes, The Smurfs did it first. Well, even though Tom Cruise in this film was meant to be heartfelt, some have stated that it’s a bit appropriating culture. However, again, this film is still quite good. In fact, the film had been more widely accepted in Japan than it had been in the states. A reporter from the Mainichi Shinbun, one of the biggest news outlets in Japan, stated that The Last Samurai was “a vast improvement over previous American attempts to portray Japan.” That is some significant praise.
The Last Samurai holds a 66% critic rating on Rotten Tomatoes and an 83% audience approval rating. Though the critic rating is on the lower side, the consensus was that the film landed well. That was certainly the case for box office numbers, as the film garnered $454 million in worldwide box offices, against a budget of $140 million. Despite the arguments that this film was “white washing” samurai culture, or attempting to, it was highly successful. The film was nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Supporting Actor for Ken Watanabe, who is spectacular in the film. Tom Cruise is also fantastic, though he was only nominated for Best Actor at the Golden Globes for his performance.
The Last Samurai follows Captain Nathan Algren (Tom Cruise), who is now an alcoholic ashamed of the war crimes he committed during the American Indian Wars. Algren is found by a former soldier who served under him and tasked with training a contemporary Japanese army against the vicious Samurai rebels led by Katsumoto (Ken Watanabe). Algren and the Imperial Japanese Army are defeated, with Algren being kidnapped by Katsumoto. During his captivity, he begins to learn the way of the samurai. He is returned safely but is now stuck between returning to his old life in training the Imperial Japanese Army or taking up arms with Katsumoto, who has now become his friend. Without ruining the rest of the film, or delving too deeply into the exact plot, you can view this film before July 1st, when it will officially leave Netflix.
Despite the constant arguments that the film is called The Last Samurai, and essentially features a white man in that role, we think that there is more going on within the layers of the story. Though Tom Cruise learns the samurai way of life and adopts it, he is essentially not the last samurai. The idea of the movie was to showcase the Western expanding ideology that made its way to Japan, effectively removing the warrior culture that had built the empire that Japan was then. Katsumoto could be seen as the last samurai, but we will let you watch it to determine that for yourselves.
The Last Samurai is currently streaming on Netflix and features amazing performances from Tom Cruise, Ken Watanabe, and Hiroyuki Sanada, who plays Ujiro. Sanada was more recently lauded for his performance as Scorpion in the Mortal Kombat adaptation. Anyway, despite the constant cultural arguments for this film, it is still entertaining. The dramatic nature in which Cruise and Watanabe react to one another will bring tears to everyone’s eyes. Give this one a watch before it leaves on July 1st.