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The Last Samurai (Edward Zwick, 2003) film is based on a true story, depicting courage and honor while struggling against greed and corruption. During this time, Emperor Meiji is the leader and wished to strengthen his army through his vision of modernized Japan. Algren gets a job to train the Japanese military. This paper looks into a close reading of a scene in The Last Samurai movie including its technical analysis, description, and analysis of the content. The narrative structure, themes, characters, and style of the scene will be examined.
The scene involves a sequence of events from the instance Algren leads the government army in attacking the samurai, to the moment he falls in love with the samurai way of life. Katsumoto, alias Ken Watanabe, is the leader of the rebel group comprising of a few hundred samurai with an aim to oppose the leadership by Emperor Meiji. During the battle, Algren and his army are defeated. He is left helpless, injured and surrounded by the samurai. Katsumoto prevents the samurai warriors from killing Algren before he is captured. Algren passes out due to the wounds he got during the battle. He is led to the mountains while tied to a horse. Later in the scene, he is taken to Taka's house, who nurses his wounds. While Algren is recovering, Katsumoto is confronted by Ujio and Nobutada to kill him, but Katsumoto plan was to keep him alive and learn how to fight against the army. Through Algren's interaction with the society, he learns about the samurai culture and their fighting methods. Algren is on various occasions training with Ujio and other samurai in the snow. His captivity bears a friendship with Katsumoto where both of them learn to understand each other despite their cultural difference. Algren is also impregnated by the values being defended by the samurai to the point that he decides to join them in the fight against his battalion he once trained.
Nathan Algren also referred to as the captain is the main character in the scene played by Tom Cruise. He is decorated as a war hero having fought against the rebel samurai despite being surrounded and stabbed several times. Also, during his clash with the samurai, Algren is seen as a war hero when he leaps up and propels the jagged wooden end of the broken lance into the unprotected throat of his samurai attacker. Algren is also seen as a great and mighty whitey. During this sequence of war events, Katsumoto and the samurai army describes Algren's stand as heroic since he stands against certain death. Moritsugu Katsumoto is another character in the scene played by Ken Watanabe and closely relates to the life of Saigo Takamori, a highly honored historical hero in Japan. He is adorned and thought as the last true samurai. He presents himself as a worthy opponent as he is seen to be firm but a sympathetic leader in the scene when he spares Algren's life. During the scene where Katsumoto clashes with Algren in a fight against the rebel samurai, Katsumoto recalls his dream of the tiger glimpsed at the beginning of the story and watches his dream come to life when he realizes the spear Algren is using. In that case, Katsumoto is defined as a dreamer whose dream comes true. Taka is another character played by Koyuki as sister to Katsumoto, and a widow of a fallen samurai. She was the only female role in the scene. Taka is presented as a forgiving character as she accepts to nurse Algren's wound after being captured by the samurai. Later in the scene, Taka is decorated to the degree that she is a samurai as her male counterparts since she conducts herself with strict composure and avoids falling in love with Algren. Also, Taka is described as an ideal woman in terms of classic feminine beauty. When Algren opened his eyes while in Taka's house and saw her beauty, he fell in love with her.
Flashback is one of the styles used in the sequence of events narrated. During the scene where Katsumoto clashes with Algren in a fight against the rebel samurai, Katsumoto recalls his dream of the tiger glimpsed at the beginning of the story and watches his dream come to life when he realizes the spear Algren is using. The other style used is facial expression and body posture in the narrated scenes. Algren in various instances uses facial expression to translate his mind and reveal the emotions to the surrounding people. Algren uses unruffled expression and body posture during battles to imply intimidation. He also creates responsiveness and tension by violating the personal space of others and thus inferring the emotions within the story.
White Supremacy is one of the theme in the film the last samurai in the scene where Japanese attack the samurai. Having captured Algren and having him as the newest member of the samurai, Katsumoto believed that they are inevitably carnage in one final battle by the Meiji imperial army since Algren would teach them white war techniques. During this sequence of war events in this scene, Omura and his army use the white war techniques taught by Algren to attack the rebel Japanese although their modern is portrayed as inferior. Moreover, the film houses some features of western superiority when an Algren invades Japanese territories, appreciates them and decides to teach them things about the western culture they would use against the samurai later in the scene. Secondly, loss of cultural identity is another theme expressed in the scene. During this scene, the samurai are seen concentrating on enhancing their strict code of honor and rate of discipline by accepting the attack challenge from the Japanese. Later in the scene, Algren is seen losing cultural identity as he rejects the American culture by solidifying his assimilation towards the superiority of the Japanese culture by agreeing to join their army. The other evident theme in the scene is revenge. Taka is determined to kill Algren because he had killed her husband during a battle against the samurai. She confronts Katsumoto to make Algren leave or kill him since she could not bear his presence. As Algren is nursed in Taka's house, he seeks to have "sake," but Taka refuses to give in to his demand. In this case, Taka wanted Algren to suffer just the way he made her and her children suffer by killing her husband.
The Last Samurai film highlights several aspects of the white supremacy over the Eastern culture. The use of guns imported from the west and employment of Algren as a military advisor, who is in the frontline to fight the Samurai, are clear instances of how white supremacy is glorified within the movie. However, the Japanese culture comes out strong when Algren decides to face the battle he once trained.
The Last Samurai. Dir. Edward Zwick. Perf. Tom Cruise, Ken Watanabe. 2003. DVD. Warner Bros. Pictures, 2004.
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