Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5.
USA, 2003. Warner Bros., The Bedford Falls Company, , Story by John Logan, Screenplay by John Logan, Edward Zwick, Marshall Herskovitz. Cinematography by John Toll. Produced by Tom Cruise, Tom Engelman, Marshall Herskovitz, Scott Kroopf, Paula Wagner, Edward Zwick. Music by Hans Zimmer. Production Design by Lilly Kilvert. Costume Design by Ngila Dickson. Film Editing by Victor Du Bois, Steven Rosenblum. Academy Awards 2003. American Film Institute Awards 2003. Golden Globe Awards 2003. National Board of Review Awards 2003. Phoenix Film Critics Awards 2003.
After participating in a number of Civil War battles (many of which helped decimate the populations of natives in North America), an embittered, drunken veteran (Tom Cruise) follows his superior officers to Japan in search of big money. He has been hired by the emperor to train the country’s army in the technology of gun battle and help bring the nation up to par with the rest of the “modern” world. The Japanese leader’s enemies are a small faction of samurai who have rebelled and insist on keeping to the old ways of sword-fighting and clinging to now-outdated codes of honour. After being captured by these warriors, Cruise ends up being trained by them in ancient arts of sword-wielding and growing to love their ways. When it comes time to fight in battle again, he fights for the first time not as a mercenary soldier but as someone who is following his heart onto the battlefield; unfortunately, his newfound purpose in life occurs at the very time that the idyllic world of tradition is being destroyed by the winds of change. This enjoyable battle epic features an excellent, charismatic lead performance by Cruise, and makes up in rich cultural and period detail what it lacks in character development and original storytelling. The plot basically follows the cookie-cutter development of life-changing period epics, but many of the themes are relevant and are at times quite powerful. The personalities of the performers (especially an outstanding Ken Watanabe as the leader of the samurai rebels) still allows for the action scenes and their results to be very emotionally involving.