We're Only Human: I Learned It at the Movies; January / February 2010; Scientific American Mind; by Wray Herbert; 2 Page(s)
In the 2003 movie The Last Samurai, Tom Cruise plays a former U.S. Army captain named Nathan Algren, an alcoholic and mercenary who in the 1870s goes to Japan to work for the Emperor Meiji. The young emperor is facing a samurai rebellion, and Algren trains a ragtag bunch of farmers and peasants in modern warfare, including the use of rifles. When Algren is captured by the samurai, however, he is gradually converted to their ways and ends up fighting alongside the warriors in a losing battle against the Imperial Army he helped to create.
The movie was both a critical and popular success, and why not? It offers lots of exciting swordplay, exotic costumes and a fascinating piece of history that was probably unfamiliar to most Americans before the film was released. Indeed, it’s fair to say that many Americans have learned much of what they know about the westernization of Japan from watching films such as The Last Samurai.