“”Sake….sake…sake..”” Seriously—and apologies for the above line—this quote/scene from “”The Last Samurai”” runs on a little too long and becomes a bit annoying, undercutting what should be a powerful section of the film. It’s yelled by Captain Nathan Algren (Tom Cruise) early in his recuperation after being wounded and taken captive by a group of Japanese rebels led by Katsumoto (Ken Watanabe). The insurgents are fighting against what they perceive as the modernization of their home country through its embrace of Western technology as well as its culture and lifestyles.
Bad scenes aside, the story begins at a Centennial celebration in San Francisco of 1876, where the disgruntled, and drunk, Capt. Algren is working as a spokesperson for the Winchester rifle folks. His days there are, to put it one way, limited, as he is a less than stellar employee, and is also still getting over his experiences from years spent in both the Civil War and fighting against Native Americans. It’s after one of his performances, one which goes badly, that his friend Sgt. Zebulah Grant (Billy Connolly) leads him to a meeting with Col. Ben Bagley (Tony Goldwyn), a former compatriot who Algren now resents, and Japanese businessman Omura (Masato Harada).At this meeting, Omura offers Capt. Algren a position as military advisor to the Japanese Imperial Army. There is a civil war in Japan where the government is fighting Katsumoto and his samurai followers, and, they are looking to the West to help modernize the Imperial forces for this conflict. Algren, after initial reluctance, agrees to help quell this rebellion overseas, just as he has already done domestically (with both the Confederacy and Native Americans). The Captain, along with Col. Bagley and Sgt. Grant, head over to Japan as advisors and discover a country that is looking to the West for consultation in diverse areas of their society, and many Japanese are even adopting Western-style dress and haircuts. The group is greeted by Simon Graham (Timothy Spall), a native Brit and translator who works with the American visitors in their dealings with the Emperor (Schinosuke Nakamura). Simon also presents Nathan with books on the samurai–the rebels