Thursday, January 29, 2004

Last Samurai: review

just came back from watching "Last Samurai". overall verdict: quite watchable, even Robina agreed. some minor spoilers ahead. I won't go into details, just general impressions but still be warned.

overall grade: 6.5 out of 10. would have given 7.5 if they focus on Katsumoto and the Satsuma Rebellion than on Tom Cruise. but tough luck since Cruise is the producer!

good cinematography. lush landscape (but it's mostly NZ not Japan!). good action sequences. in particular, the ninja attack. very fast paced and tight editing. cinema audience held their breathe!

Ken Watanabe was superb! his nomination for Best Suporting Actor in the Oscars is befitting (but I don think he will win, sadly). Hiroyuki Sanada as Uijo, Katsumoto's lieutenant was just as compelling and convincing. a martial arts expert himself, he coached Cruise with the swordplay (like in the film!) and even choreographed the action scenes.

now for the critical parts:
the film was laying it on thick with the Samurai-noble warrior romanticism. the last stand cum sucidal charge was one of this aspect. u can try watching Kurosawa's "7 samurai" for a more balanced look at the samurai-peasant angles.

trying to juxtapose traditional vs modernisation was one thing, but losing historical perspective was another. for one, the Satsuma rebels did use modern weapons (they'r rebels but they'r not nuts!). for another, samurai has been innovators throught their history. they have keenly adopted new military technology when they can get their hands on it. Samurai took to muskets quickly after they were introduced by the Portugese. The japanese developed the rolling volley (one rank fires, then the other follows while the 1st rank reload) even before the europeans. Many samurai even adopted European helmets and curaiss armour as part of their armour.


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