And gruesome. The battle scenes are every bit as graphic as those in The Return of the King or Kill Bill...but they're also more movie, and somehow, more dignified. There's an elegance to this film. Perhaps it's in tribute to the Japanese subject, perhaps it's in deference to the Samurai culture...but it's awe-inspiring.
The final scenes of death on the battlefield, under beautiful perfect pink cherry blossoms...so moving.
Granted. I'm biased. I'm a fan of Asian culture. And martial arts/samurai movies. And attractive Asian men (which there's a few of in this, as you might imagine)...but this movie is just wonderful. Tom Cruise? Eh. Whatever...I joked at one point that he wanted to make the movie because he'd be taller than his Japanese co-stars. He was good in it. He had a bit of his Born on the Fourth of July embittered veteran thing going on. Was he the best choice? Could someone else have done this better? Maybe. I could see Russell Crowe doing a broody take on it...but Tom Cruise did envince a certain reverence for the Japanese culture that was believable.
The best scenes were not batlle ones. They were the scenes of the foreigner, at first prisoner, later compatriot, falling in love with the rustic life in the samurai village, learning the language, the manners, how to eat with chopsticks...and at the end becoming more Japanese than some of the Japanese.
This has been a year for Japanese-influenced and inspired films. I was reminded, many times, of Lost in Translation watching this...if Bill Murray's character had lived in 1876, he might have made the same sorts of comments that Tom Cruise's character made to "Bob." With more films like this, and with anime becoming more popular (the success of Spirited Away being a prime example), we really are turning Japanese...