Hutba, Michelle C.


The film is about two men from very different backgrounds who become united by honor and respect. Both are warriors who fight their demons as much as their enemies and who desire to understand and learn from each other in the hope of finding peace. Tom Cruise plays Nathan Algren, a highly decorated American civil war veteran who drinks to dull the horrific memories that haunt him. Reduced to promoting Winchester rifles, Algren is approached by Omura (Masato Harada) on behalf of the Japanese emperor who is enamoured of all things western and willing to pay him handsomely for training his troops to quell a Samurai rebellion. The task reunites Algren with an old friend (Billy Connolly) and an old enemy in Colonel Bagley (Tony Goldwyn).

Despite Algren's insistence that the emperor's army is not ready to take on what Bagley dismisses as "savages with bows and arrows", they are sent to battle the Samurai led by the proud Katsumoto (Ken Watanabe). During the Samurai's victory Algren is spared when his bravery commands the attention of the stately chief. Taken back to their village he is reluctantly nursed back to health by Taku (Koyuki), sister of Katsumoto and wife of a man Algren had killed. In the knowledge that once spring comes the emperor's troops will return, Algren is kept alive so that Katsumoto can learn about his enemy.

The two men engage in philosophical "conversations" and come to recognize their similarities, "We are both students of war." As Algren becomes assimilated into their way of life he notes, "They are an intriguing people." Village life is observed in elegant detail along with the customs and values of the samurai. Contrasting with the brutal fight sequences, often shot in graphic slow motion, are some humorous and tender moments, most notably in the suppressed passion between Algren and Taku. After his winter with the samurai, when time comes for battle,...