The Last Samurai By Edward Zwick Essay

The Last Samurai By Edward Zwick Essay

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The last Samurai, directed by Edward Zwick, was released in December of 2003. It tells the story of an American Army officer who is hired by the Emperor of Japan to train the imperial army and put down a pending samurai rebellion. The story is fictional which is to say it is very loosely connected to real events. However, according to Mr. Zwick it was his intention to give the audience a feel for the tug-of-war between controlling interests in japan during this time period. It’s also important to mention that the Mr. Zwick went to great lengths to hire a cast and crew from Japan that would further the goal of creating a movie that looked and felt authentic to that time period. He relied heavily on those individuals to educate the crew as well as star in the film. My interest is in exploring this movie for its historical accuracy as well as its inaccuracy and in its portrayal of the 19th century samurai.
The year is 1876 and Japan is looking to modernize. At roughly the same time, America and its technology have hit the world stage. An ambassador to the Japanese Emperor named Omura travels to the United States where he is introduced to Army Captain Nathan Algren, played by Tom Cruise. It is explained to Algren that along with Japan, the Imperial Army is being modernized in its equipment and its training specifically for the purpose of defeating the samurai who wish for Japan to remain isolated from outside influence. Algren accepts this job and travels to Japan for the first time in his life. As his ship arrives in Japan, the audience is presented with its first look at Japan. It is a collision of cultures and time periods. Western clothing and technology are mixed with the very different look and feel of a less modern Japan.
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... in the drivers seat with respect to these deals and in reality it was very much the other way around.
I’ll close by saying that I enjoyed the movie. Like most anything created in Hollywood, there are some missing pieces to the puzzle. Maybe this story has more than most but I think that is because the subject is not a simple one. I believe that Zwick made an honest attempt to tell a story that was true and accurate to the best of his knowledge while still making something that would peak the interest of an American audience. With that in mind, this movie grossed 111 million dollars at the box office. It’s safe to say the reach of this movie far outweighs any scholarly article ever written. It’s my hope that the movie will continue to inspire conversation on the topic and lead moviegoers in search of a more substantial, and possibly peer reviewed source of history.

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