The Last Samurai | Chicago Reader

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Edward Zwick recombines the samurai epics of the 50s and 60s with his own Glory for this dramatic tale of a U.S. cavalryman (Tom Cruise), hardened by the Civil War and haunted by the U.S. Army's genocide against the Indians, who agrees to teach modern warfare to Japanese soldiers fighting samurai rebels. As in Glory, Zwick manages to re-create the steadily mounting terror of 19th-century combat, and like its Japanese counterparts, this becomes a journey of self-discovery once the American is dragged off the field by the enemy and schooled in the way of the samurai. Cruise holds the center of the film with a sharply focused performance, though his bonding with the wise samurai chieftain (Ken Watanabe) is noticeably more ardent than his soggy romance with the stoic wife of a man he killed in combat. R, 144 min.

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