The Last Samurai is a 2003 action drama revolving around the Meiji Restoration in 19th century Japan. In the 1870s we follow Captain Nathan Algren (Tom Cruise). He is a cynical Civil War veteran who is still haunted by the massacres against Native Americans. Algren is now an alcoholic and leads a bitter life. He will now also work for everyone. When he receives an offer to train the Japanese emperor’s inexperienced army, he immediately accepts. It’s the Americans who hire him, and they want lucrative contracts with the Emperor of Japan. The main purpose of the imperial army is to quell a rebellion by traditionalist samurai. The Samurai are hereditary warriors who remain devoted to the Holy Dynasty and reject the Western policy. They use swords and refuse firearms.
There is a big difference between the firepower of the imperial army and the samurai. However, the outcome is in the samurai’s favor. The Imperial Army is laced with the firepower of modern warfare. But due to the lack of experience and with the untrained and ill-prepared approach, the samurai easily outdoes them. The panic allows the samurai to eventually defeat them, using only swords. Algren is the only one finally standing, albeit badly injured. The samurai take Algren as a prisoner of war. As soon as his wounds heal and he is healthy again, he becomes enamored with the samurai culture. He is also trying to help Katsumoto and his efforts to save the Bushido tradition. Omura, meanwhile, is enforcing repressive laws. Now Nathan has to choose sides and he does – the samurai.
What is the movie about and who is in it?
The film was released in 2003 and became a major commercial hit. The film is a co-production between Radar Pictures, The Bedford Falls Company and Cruise / Wagner Productions. Marshall Herskovitz, Edward Zwick, Tom Cruise, Paula Wagner, Scott Kroopf and Tom Engelman produced the film. Zwick, Herskovitz and John Logan wrote the screenplay. Hans Zimmer composed the score while John Toll is responsible for the cinematography. Steven Rosenblum and Victor Dubois took care of the editing. The Satsuma Rebellion of 1877 inspired the film’s plot. It is also inspired by the stories of Jules Brunet, a captain of the French army. He participated in the earlier Boshin War and fought alongside Enomoto Takeaki. Finally, it’s also somewhat influenced by Frederick Townsend Ward, an American mercenary who helped westernize the Chinese military.
In the film, Tom Cruise stars as Captain Nathan Algren, a veteran of the Civil and Indian War. Ken Watanabe plays Lord Moritsgu Katsumoto, a former daimyo who organizes the samurai into a rebellion. Koyuki Kato plays Taka, Lord Katsumoto’s younger sister and Algren’s love interest. Shin Koyamada plays Nobutada Katsumoto, son of Moritsgu Katsumoto. Tony Goldwyn plays Colonel Bagley. He is the former Commander of Nathan Algren in the 7th Cavalry Regiment. He hires Algren as a training instructor for the Imperial Army. Masato Harada plays Matsue Omura, a wealthy industrialist. Shichinosuke Nakamura plays Emperor Meiji. Hiroyuki Sanada plays the master swordsman Ujio. Timothy Spall plays British photographer Simon Graham. Seizo Fukumoto plays the character of Silent Samurai. Billy Connolly plays Seargent Zebulon Gant, an Irish-American Civil War veteran. Shun Sugata plays Nakao, a samurai who assists Algren in the rescue of Katsumoto.
Where was The Last Samurai filmed?
Much of the main photography took place in New Zealand. It has also been recorded in the US and Japan. In New Zealand, the shooting mainly took place in the Taranaki region. The reason for this location was that Mount Taraki resembles Mount Fuji, and the forests helped too. Much of the shooting took place on the slopes of the Uruti Valley, in the north of Taranaki. The port where Nathan Algren arrives in Japan was near New Plymouth. Another place was Pukekura Park. In the US, the shooting took place at the Warner Bros. Studios, Burbank. Although most of the image of Japan was the sets built in New Zealand. The shooting also took place in Awaji City, Hyogo, Japan. Then there is Nijo Castle in Kyoto, where part of the shooting took place. In fact, the emperor’s imperial seat is shot in the iconic Buddhist Chion-in temple.
Watch the trailer here;
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