The Last Samurai

Movie review by
Nell Minow, Common Sense Media
The Last Samurai Movie Poster Image
Outstanding action and performance; lots of blood.
  • R
  • 2003
  • 154 minutes
Parents recommendPopular with kids

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 9 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 29 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Violence

Intense battle violence, graphic injuries, characters killed, suicide Nightmare material.

Sex

Sexual references.

Language

Strong 19th century language.

Consumerism
Drinking, drugs & smoking

Character abuses alcohol, smoking.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this movie has extreme and graphic violence with many grisy wounds and a lot of blood. Many characters are killed, including some we have come to care about. Parents should especially be aware of the way that this movie portrays the traditional samurai notion of suicide as an honorable choice in the event of a defeat. The movie also includes some strong language, alcohol abuse, smoking, and sexual references. One of the movie's strengths is its respect for the Japanese culture and its portrayal of strong and respectful relationships between people of different races and cultures.

User Reviews

Adult Written bywinfall April 9, 2008
Adult Written byBlaWhCorgi May 13, 2011

Swords and Guns

The main character is both brave and bold. He also shows perseverance in many instances. However, a few of the messages is that an honorable way out of life is...
Teen, 17 years old Written byTripleR July 12, 2011

Marvelous but with a few disturbances

I am completely in love with this movie!!! I love watching it over and over and the end always makes me at least tear up. I think the positive messages are to n...
Teen, 16 years old Written bygoldenlion666 April 15, 2012

What's the story?

THE LAST SAMURAI centers on Nathan Algren (Tom Cruise), a Civil War veteran irredeemably corrupted by wartime atrocities and devoid of honor. When he is offered a job to train Japanese soldiers in modern fighting techniques, he does not care whose side he will be on. He is still haunted by a raid that killed civilian Indians. Algren goes to work training soldiers in modern tactics so that they can defeat a samurai rebellion led by Katsumoto (Ken Watanabe). Against his best judgment, the troops are sent in against the samurai too soon. They are defeated, and Algren is captured. Algren learns that the samurai believe that they, not the troops Algren has been training, are doing what the emperor needs. He's impressed and ultimately moved by them. Algren -- or at least the man he once was -- has more in common with the samurais' life of "service, discipline, and compassion" than he has with any of his peers. The samurai have all the honor and self-respect that Algren left behind when he followed orders he despised. Algren is trained by the samurai in the ancient arts, which include not just fighting but living.

Is it any good?

The Last Samurai has some outstanding action scenes and memorable performances, but its greatest strength is its scope. Director/co-author Edward Zwick imbues every part of the screen with respect, even majesty. The epic reach of the movie is grounded in committed and thoughtful performances, especially Watanabe and Koyuki as Taka, his sister. Cruise delivers his usual performance, sincere and loaded with movie star charisma. His mastery of the samurai fighting techniques is impressive.

However, the movie's greatest weakness is that while we know that Algren's commanding officer is a bad guy, the emperor is a weak guy advised by a greedy guy, and Katsumoto is a good guy, we never understand the substance of the conflict well enough to take sides. One side may be corrupt, but it is grappling with the inevitable in engaging with modernity. The other side may have honor and dignity, but in embracing its own extinction it seems to have forgotten how to do anything but fight, no matter what the consequences to its community. And the last 20 minutes or so are disappointingly formulaic, undercutting the power of everything that went before.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what it means to say that "A man does what he can until his destiny is revealed."

Movie details

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