The Last Samurai

2003 American film by Edward Zwick

The Last Samurai is a 2003 alternate history film about an American army captain Nathan Algren who is hired to train Japanese troops during the Meiji Restoration. In his first battle against the oppositional samurai, Algren is taken prisoner by Lord Katsumoto who gradually converts him to his cause. Although not historically accurate, the film covered several major issues of the Japanese history and was received better in Japan than in the US.

What does it mean to be Samurai? To devote yourself utterly to a set of moral principles. To seek a stillness of your mind. And to master the way of the sword.
Directed by Edward Zwick. Written by John Logan
In the face of an enemy, in the Heart of One Man, Lies the Soul of a Warrior

Nathan Algren edit

  • Imagine someone who hates you with the utmost intensity grabbing a handful of your hair while you're lying prostrate and helpless. Then scraping the dull blade of a rusty knife across you scalp. And let your imagination grasp if you can, Mr. Graham, the effect that a strong, quick jerk on the turf of your hair to release any clinging particles would have on your nervous system.
  • [narrating] Spring, 1877. This marks the longest I've stayed in one place since I left the farm at 17. There is so much here I will never understand. I've never been a church going man, and what I've seen on the field of battle has led me to question God's purpose. But there is indeed something spiritual in this place. And though it may forever be obscure to me, I cannot but be aware of its power. I do know that it is here that I've known my first untroubled sleep in many years.

Others edit

  • Colonel Bagley: [to Algren] Just tell me one thing. What is it about your own people that you hate so much?
  • Simon Graham [opening narration]: They say Japan was made by a sword. They say the old gods dipped a coral blade into the ocean, and when they pulled it out four perfect drops fell back into the sea, and those drops became the islands of Japan. I say, Japan was made by a handful of brave men. Warriors, willing to give their lives for what seems to have become a forgotten word: honor.
  • Simon Graham [closing narration]: And so the days of the Samurai had ended. Nations, like men, it is sometimes said, have their own destiny. As for the American Captain, no one knows what became of him. Some say that he died of his wounds. Others, that he returned to his own country. But I like to think he may have at last found some small measure of peace, that we all seek, and few of us ever find.

Dialogue edit

Omura: Katsumoto is an extraordinary man, is he not?
Algren: He's a tribal leader. I've known many of them.
Omura: But none who are samurai. Their ways have great appeal.
Algren: I don't see how this concerns me.
Omura: Ah, but it does. You see, you were right, Captain Algren. Last year, we were not prepared to go to battle. You were right and Colonel Bagley was wrong. But now, we are ready. If Katsumoto is allowed to attract other samurai to his cause, we will have 10 years of rebellion. This is something I will not allow. Either I will stop him at the council today, or you will lead my army against him. And with these new weapons, you will crush him.
Algren: I appreciate the offer...
Omura: It is not an offer.
Algren: Mr. Omura, my contract with you was to train your army.
Omura: Then we will make a new contract. One that will recognize the extraordinary contribution you have made to the emperor. Do we understand each other?
Algren: Yes, we understand each other perfectly.
Omura: Then I am pleased. [Algren bows, turns, and leaves the room. Omura turns to his secretary and speaks in Japanese] Follow him. If he goes anywhere near Katsumoto, kill him.

Colonel Bagley: Nathan, Katsumoto's attacked the railroad at the border of this province.
Omura: We cannot govern a country in which we cannot travel freely. He must be stopped now. My railroad is a priority for this country.
Algren: [about the army] They're not ready.
Colonel Bagley: The rebels don't have a single rifle. They're savages with bows and arrows.
Algren: Whose sole occupation for the last thousand years has been war.
Colonel Bagley: You have superior firepower and a larger force. I am ordering the regiment to move against the rebel Katsumoto. You will track him down and engage him.

Algren: [To one Japanese soldier] Load. [to Simon Graham] Mr. Graham, tell this man to fire at me!
Simon Graham: I beg your pardon?
Algren: [Pulls out his pistol and cocks it] Tell this man that if he does not shoot me, I will kill him.
Sgt. Gant: Captain, if I might have a word...
[Algren fires his pistol at the soldier's feet, making everyone except Gant and Bagley jump.]
Algren: Tell him... tell him! [Re-cocks his pistol]
[Graham hurriedly translates for the soldier. Shocked and wide-eyed at Algren's command, the soldier looks at Algren and frantically shakes his head.]
Algren: Load!
[He fires again, this time knocking the soldier's hat off. The soldier hurriedly re-loads his rifle.]
Algren: Faster! [fires again] Faster!
[The soldier loads as fast as possible, discarding his ramrod in his haste.]
Algren: Shoot me, damn it.
[The soldier cocks his rifle and aims at Algren, but, almost as though he understands Algren's command, shakes his head and refuses to shoot.]
Algren: Fire! Fire, ute!
[Algren fires his last shot. The soldier aims quickly and pulls his trigger, narrowly missing Algren and hitting the sandbag behind him. Algren lowers his gun, sighs in disappointment, then holsters his gun and pats the soldier on the shoulder, who almost collapses from fear.]
Algren: [to Bagley] They're not ready.
Colonel Bagley: [to the rest of the army] The regiment leaves at 6 AM!

[Katsumoto has been granted an audience with the Emperor during a truce, in which he begs him to stop letting the new merchant-class of tycoons dominate his government, and accept the samurai back]
Emperor Meiji: You rise against me, my teacher.
Katsumoto: No, Highness. I rise against your enemies.
Emperor Meiji: They are my advisors, like you.
Katsumoto: They advise in their own interest!
Emperor Meiji: I need advisors who know the modern world.
Katsumoto: If I am no use, I will happily end my life.
Emperor Meiji: No, I need your voice in the Council.
Katsumoto: It is your voice we need, Highness. You are a living god. Do what you think is right.
Emperor Meiji: [ruefully] I am a living god - as long as I do what *they* think is right.
Katsumoto: [stunned beyond words, sorrowful] ...What sad words you speak...

Katsumoto: With this sword I guarded the Emperor...
Omura: We don't need your protection. We are a nation of laws.
Katsumoto: We are a nation of whores selling ourselves...
Omura: If we are whores, the samurai made us this way.

[As Algren and Katsumoto rides up to meet Omura, an unnamed lieutenant and Col. Bagley. Bagley is shocked to see Algren in a red samurai armor.]
Colonel Bagley: Good God! [Recovers to face both Algren and Katsumoto] Sir, the Imperial Army of Japan demands your surrender. If you and your fellows lay down your arms, you will not be harmed.
Katsumoto: This is not possible as Mr. Omura knows.
[Omura gives Katsumoto a nod as a sign of respect. Bagley then faces Algren]
Colonel Bagley: Captain Algren, we will show you no quarter. You ride against us and you're the same as they are.
Algren: I'll look for you in the field.

[The commanders see smoke rising from the battlefield]
Colonel Bagley: What on earth?!
Omura: What is happening?
Colonel Bagley: The attack has been stopped.
Omura: Send in rest of the regiment.

Katsumoto: What happened to the warriors at Thermopylae?
Nathan Algren: [smiling] Dead to the last man.

[Nathan Algren appears and kneels before Emperor Meiji, just as he is about to sign a new US-Japan pact]
Nathan Algren: [presents a sword] This is Katsumoto's sword. He would have wanted you to have it, that the strength of the Samurai be with you always.
Omura: Enlightened One, we weep for Katsumoto, but...
Algren: He hoped with his last breath that you would remember the ancestors who held this sword and what they died for.
Omura: [as Emperor Meiji receives the sword] Your Highness...
Emperor Meiji: You were with him, at the end?
Algren: Hai. [bows]
Omura: [in English] Emperor. This man fought against you!
Algren: Your Highness, if you believe me to be your enemy, command me and I will gladly take my life.
Meiji: [ponders Algren's words and stands up] I dreamed of a unified Japan, of a country strong and independent and modern. And now we have railroads and cannon, Western clothing. But [looks at sword] we cannot forget who we are, or where we come from. Ambassador Swanbeck, I have concluded that your treaty is NOT in the best interests of my people.
Ambassador Swanbeck: Sir, if I may...
Meiji: So sorry, but you may not.
Swanbeck: This is an outrage! [angrily storms out of the room. His aide bows to the emperor before leaving]
Omura: [in Japanese] Enlightened One, we must discuss this-
Meiji: Omura, you have done quite enough.
Omura: Everything I have done, I have done for my country.
Meiji: [disbelieving Omura] Then you will not mind when I seize your family's assets and present them as my gift to the people. [Algren is seen pleased at Omura's downfall.]
Omura: [furious] You disgrace me!
Meiji: If your shame is too unbearable, [holds up Katsumoto's sword in front of Omura] I offer you this sword! [Omura backs down. to Algren] Tell me how he died.
Algren: I will tell you how he lived.

Cast edit

External links edit

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