ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Review of The Last Samurai by Edward Zwick

Updated on May 7, 2020

The Last Samurai by the American director, Edward Zwick, is an historical film. It triggers off historical events that constitute the collective memory of both Japan and the United States of America exemplified by Tom Cruise as Nathan Algren and Ken Watanabe as Katsumoto. Other contributions of Zwick to this filmic genre include Glory as well as Legends of the Fall.

The film opens with Graham, an English journalist whose thick voice is reminiscent of the king of voice-overs, Morgan Freeman. As in the plays of Shakespeare, Graham plays the role of the prologue. That is, he exposes the story for the audience by setting the place of the narrative. For example, he states,"The myth says that Japan was made by a sword and the drops of the ocean became the Islands of Japan". Filmmakers usually use the technique of the voice-over to tell stories or rather to comment on a particular event. While Graham is speaking, the camera shifts its focus to the character of Katsumoto by zooming in. In this way, the lens of the camera moves from extreme long shots to mere extreme close ups. After the panoramic establishment of the setting, the camera zooms and delves into the depths of Katsomuto’s inner mind to foreshadow the coming of Algren through the narrative device of prolepsis. The filmmaker juxtaposes the eyes of the tiger with those of Katsumoto. This juxtaposition foretells Algren’s adoption of the samurai. The filmmaker makes use of close up shots while Katsumoto is in moments of meditation in order to highlight his spirituality and divinity. During the prolepsis, a change occurs at the level of visual effects. First, the filmmaker uses slow motion particularly when the Samurais surround the tiger who is a metaphor for Algren. Second, there is change of light to blue blurred with smoke in order to give the effect of anticipation and predicting the future as in Sci-Fi films. Concerning sound effects, the sequence starts by an asynchronous Japanese flute and finishes with the roar of the tiger to show the climactic and progressive nature of the narrative scheme throughout the whole film.

It is worth noting that the film includes multiple narratives. Unlike Graham, Algren is a homodiegetic narrator in the sense that he is the narrator and the protagonist at the same time. Thus, one of the significant voice-overs is that of Algren because it deconstructs those stereotypes drawn about the Japanese and the Far East as whole. In this vein, The Last Samurai is similar to Western revisionist films particularly Dead Man by Jim Jarmusch starring with Johnny Depp. Besides, The Last Samurai pastiches Kevin Costner’s Dances with Wolves. There is a great deal of intertextuality between both films especially at the level of narration. For instance, the two protagonists end up by embracing the culture of the Other. The motif of the notebook is a microcosmic metaphor of intertextuality between both films because it includes the same paintings of the Native Americans. Some people call them Red Indians since the term Native American is paradoxical in nature. A native is someone who is close to the state of nature while America symbolizes civilization. The American literary canon including Cooper’s The Last of the Mohicans and Hemingway’s Indian Camp have also a great influence on the imagination of Zwick particularly in shaping the title and themes as death and life.

The end is very significant because the film reaches the dénouement. Graham appears in a middle shot denouncing the end of the story “and so the days of the Samurai had ended” . However, Graham is not the godlike narrator who knows everything because at one stage he himself declares, “no one knows what became of him” . In this way, the third omniscient narrator will interfere and give the film its missing piece by showing the return of Algren to the village of the Samurai.

The Last Samurai is a complex film for what it holds of connotations. It is not only about action and war. The film transcends itself to what is cultural. Besides, the film is significant when it comes to narration. Obviously, Zwick had been influenced by a variety of films as well as literary works before his The Last Samurai came into existence. For instance, the character of Lieutenant Dunbar in Dances with Wolves follows the same narrative scheme of Algren. Besides, Zwick draws an analogy between the experience of the Japanese and that of the Red Indians. Moreover, the character of Graham grants the film the narrative dimension of storytelling. As readers, we understand that the journal Algren gave to Graham is what makes the story.


© 2020 Issam El Masmodi

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • Issam masmodi profile imageAUTHOR

      Issam El Masmodi 

      3 weeks ago

      Exactly sir. There is something exotic about this film and Cruise' performance is just great

    • rebelogilbert profile image

      Gilbert Arevalo 

      3 weeks ago from Hacienda Heights, California

      Issam, your review about the film encourages me to take a look at the film. I've seen many films starring Tom Cruise. He seems to be trying something different.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://maven.io/company/pages/privacy

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)