10 December 2011

The Last Samurai

The epic Edward Zwick war film "The Last Samurai" which starred actor Tom Cruise is a movie that not only presents a compelling story line but also a different sensation that war like movies usually don't try to showcase, morals and heritage. Whenever we watch these genres of films we expect to see the hard nosed bad guy who gets overwhelmed with emotion and sees the errors of his ways. For this movie Tom Cruise's character "Nathan Algren" is captain of a U.S. Civil War army but becomes recruited by a Japanese Emperor to train his men so they are fully capable of wiping out the dreaded Samurai who has come again to torture them.
Once Algren leads the Japanese army into battle, they get ambushed leaving him behind to fend off the remaining soldiers. Clearly outnumbered and somewhat outskilled by them Nathan lies on the ground breathing in his last breath what it seems until the general of the Japanes Army named Karamuto spares his life after being amazed at his will and skills to kill his best Samurai, which happened to be his brother in law. Karamuto takes Nathan in and has him stay at a residents house and begins to teach Captain Algren the ways of his people. Algren soons realizes that he was wrong about these people and begins to conflict his own reasons for fighting, not sure of who he should be fighting alongside with.

For a movie that has so much imagery involved in the films creation, there were a few spots in the movies that really made its viewers pay attention to the plot of the story all the way through. One example of this imagery would be the scenes where references were made toward this ancient tree in the Japanese village that was planted by the ancestors of the past and is a sacred landmark in the village. In fact when Karamuto died in battle he had images of the pink tree as if his ancestors and family where calling out to him.
However, I do believe the strongest part of imagery or mise en since in the movie was actually the uniform that Captain Algren wore from his Civil War Duty. Even when he was captured by the enemy and tried to adapt to the villages society he never took off the uniform, almost like it was a part of who he was as an American and he didn't want to forget it. The uniform of Nathan Algren represents his struggle inside him to stick with what he believes in. Karamuto challenges him to open up his view of his own country and to only fight for what he honestly believes in, to adjust his principles instead of only fighting for what his superiors told him to do. The Last Samurai challenges and teaches us to try and put our moral understandings above the barbaric characteristics we've been accustomed too in modern day.

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