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‘The Last Samurai’ gets the blood pumping

Chris Ehrlich of Burbank is a newswire editor.

Tom Cruise’s latest blockbuster, “The Last Samurai,” combines epic

battle scenes, history and just enough romance and humor to present a

story of samurai warriors in late-19th century Japan that’s both


exciting and graceful.

A bearded Cruise sparingly calls on his signature smile during the

film. Nevertheless, he shines as Capt. Nathan Algren, a

whiskey-drink- ing veteran of the U.S. Army, who leads a life without



Algren accepts a job to train the Japanese emperor’s army of

peasants how to use Civil War-era weaponry to suppress rebel samurai

warriors fighting to keep Japan from entering the Industrial Age and

rendering the samurai obsolete. After being captured by the warriors

during battle, Algren becomes an armor-wearing samurai by the movie’s


Each of the film’s intense battle scenes feature stretches of


hand-to-hand combat that will activate your internal fight-or-flight

switch and make your heart pound uncontrollably. The dramatic tension

that drives the battles primarily stems from the warriors’ use of

old-world swords and arrows to fight an army of rifles and cannons.

Above all, the film uses a strong supporting cast of Japanese

actors to gracefully personify the abstract and often cliched

meanings of honor, destiny and loyalty.

* “The Last Samurai” is rated R for strong violence and battle