The Last Samurai

TheLast Samurai

Thelast Samurai is a film directed by Zwick Edward in 2003, indicating atrue epic of drama and war, as well as illustrating the ways in whichcourage and honor can battle corruption and voracity. Captain Algrenis an American civil warfare expert who holds moral disfigurement ofhis victory against indigenous Indians. He tries to hide his shameand guilt in alcohol and engages in commerce in the city of SanFrancisco. It is here that his old senior officer draws him intomeeting a wealthy Japanese entrepreneur referred to as prince Mitsuiwho offers Captain Nathan a contract to train the army of the emperorand serve as a military adviser to the Japanese government. Duringthis era Japan is led by Emperor Meiji who aimed to transform theroyal army into a more effective force through training and keepingit up to date with the latest armor and skills. This is the mainfactor that sparks conflict between the emperor with a vision tomodernize the country and the old Samurai society that vehementlyopposes such changes in the society. The Samurai are not, many innumber and they plan to revolt against the emperor and as a resultare treated as deserters who should be eliminated. This is the wherecaptain Nathan Algren get in, to show his expertise in the use of theriffle and create room for American businesspeople to trade theirweapons in guise of modernizing and improve the royal Japanese army.


Thelast Samurai is a film that exemplifies the character of two soldiersfrom different cultures that make them alien, but whose values bridgetheir differences and make them friends. The movies highlightsfundamental principles that guided the conduct of antique Japanesesociety, and that shaped the relationships between community membersand foreigners. After playing a part in the mass murder in the Indianoperation, a disenchanted captain Algren Nathan can only find solacein alcohol and can`t stand to watch the intruding progress of the19thcentury America that has threatened to disgracefully obliterate theold Japanese ways of life. In Japan we meet one of last Samuraileader in the primeval line of valiant warriors referred to asKatsumoto. Katsumoto finds himself in a conundrum as he battles withthe army of the emperor of Japan and resistance to the Americanculture that jeopardizes the old Samurai values and way of life.

of the Movie

Imperialismis a major theme in the movies, and it is the source of melancholythat has engulfed soldier Algren. When the movie begins captainNathan has vivid flash back of the civil strife in India, a war thathe fully participated in though he strongly believed the Indian wereinnocent of the charges leveled against them by the Americans. TheAmerican defense forces used false pretext to massacre Indians sothat they get the opportunity of exploiting land and other resourcesthat were of economic value. Innocent Indian who resided the areaconsidered strategic for economic gain were killed mercilessly.

UnfortunatelyCaptain Algren is also committed to another mission of imperialism oftraining oriental men. His reputation during the Indian Campaign hasearned him a name as a legendary. Together with an old friend ColonelBagley who participated in the Indian massacre, are commissioned byJapanese Emperor to train his men so that they acquire skills on howto use modern armory and techniques that will eventually control anddemolish the brave Samurai soldiers.

Momentafter moving into Japan, Captain Nathan is forced by circumstance tosend a shaky and ill prepared imperial soldiers into war against thekey enemy of the Emperor of Japan, the Samurai. Even though theEmperor troop boost of modern sophisticated weaponry, Samurai forcessweep them off their feet with ferocity and use of ancient arms suchas spears and swords. Katsumoto troop has mastered the art of war andsurge with valor using their crude weapons with lethal effectiveness.

Intheir ritual protective covering, Katsumoto soldiers make massivestrides towards conquering Emperors army. There is a tragicomicrespite as Captain Nathan’s men most of whom are recruited farmerstremor while attempting to load their riffles. At last CaptainAlgren troops is defeated and captured but not before he killed thesecond in command in Katsumoto’s force. Algren is taken intocustody but the most perplexing thing is that the window of the manthat he murdered in battle is the one who takes care of him.

Traitsof the Samurai Character

Itis evident that the Samurai were guided by a code of conduct referredto as the Bushido which mean the ‘wayof the warrior’. The pillars of the Samurai way of life were justice, honesty, duty,compassion, loyalty, honor, sincerity and caution. These elements areconspicuous in the course of the movie in the manner in which Samurairelate with foreigners and captured soldiers, and their persistentfight to prevent disruption of their old way of life by westernculture. As Algren recuperates and gradually recoups his strength, hebecomes a student of the Samurai values and culture and unpredictablyundergoes a spiritual renaissance where he reclaims honor and a freshset of value for life.

Theresponsibility of Katsumoto is complex, for he is engaging in a fightwith the Emperor’s force which is well equipped. The main factorthat propels Samurai warriors is the desire to safeguard theirtradition which is under threat from western influence. Evidently,Katsumoto is waging a notable rebellion against the Emperor, and thisis out of loyalty to the institution which the emperor stands for. He (Katsumoto) is even ready to sacrifice his life with the aimmaintaining the culture and values of the Japanese people. However,he is well aware that Japan has been seized with an agitation to getrid of its medieval ways and emulate the western culture. Katsumotois also conscious of the fact that the West sees an opportunity tomake economic gain in the duration of the transition. For instance, arepresentative from one of the main arms firms have a huge contractsof supplying the emperor with armory, as well as the US task forcein Japan alongside the ambassador is a clearinghouse for notable profitable trade contracts.

Justiceand Morality

Inthe realization of the corruption and mission by the emperor tototally disintegrate ancient Japanese values in favor of westerncivilization, Katsumoto musters courage to face Algren and his force.In this cauldron Captain Algren goes down as a disparager. He isinformed that Katsumoto warriors are savages with crude weapons suchas arrows and bows, and he recognizes that the western advisers havenot done an exemplary job because the mission to modernize theJapanese army to defeat the Samurai’s. He leads a poorly trainedforce into a war and he is captured and is on the verge of dying buthis life is spared by the word of the Samurai’s leader. At thisjuncture the compassionate nature and a sense of duty andtrustworthiness of the Samurai are clearly visible. When a Samuraisays something he has to own that thing and is totally responsiblefor anything that such action may front. Katsumoto words savedCaptain Algren and he does not stop at that, he makes sure thatAlgren is under good care so that he can recuperate. It is alsoeminent that a Samurai is immensely loyal to all the people under hiscare, to all those he is responsible for and he remains sternly true.While everyone would have expected that Katsumoto would be verybrutal to Captain Algren because he was responsible for the murder ofSamurai second in command, Katsumoto finds it important to keep hisenemy alive because he seeks to have an in-depth knowledge of hisenemy. At the first instance Algren is reluctant and refuses to speakto Katsumoto but gradually he starts to have idealistic dialogue withthe other people about the principles of warriors and war.

Whilein captivity Captain Algren finds the life in the village a soothingenergizer, though he is constantly disturbed by nightmare from hiswartime incidences. Algren confesses that it is here in the Samuraivillage that he has had unflustered sleep. He is stuck in the houseof one of the war victims and woman who takes care of him is the wifeof the deceased warrior. It is apparent that the woman constantlycomplains acrimoniously to the samurai leader, but in the face of thecaptive she maintains a smiling pretense in the face of Captain.

Algren:&quotI killed her husband!&quot

Katsumoto:&quotIt was a good death.&quot

Fromthe dialogue between Katsumoto and Captain it is evident that a trueSamurai has only one judge of nobility and honor, and that is simplyhimself. The leader of Samurai has made a pledge to defend the fadingcode of the Samurai, and even though the community has lost a gallantwarrior in the process of defending what they believe are thefundamental values that should guide their society, Katsumoto stillsfinds it important to keep the Captain Algren alive so that he canknow the enemy better and be in a position to advance the coursewhich claimed lives. It is this honor that attracts Captain Algrenand he gradually finds himself changing loyalty, away from the armedforce towards Katsumoto.

Themovies illustrate that Katsumoto strongly believes that Japanesetraditional values and way of life, is far much superior to thewestern culture that is perceived as modernity and that was beingpropagated by Americans. Captain Algren quickly learnsthe Samurai language, fighting skills and even declares his loyaltyto the Samurai leader. Though Algren is paid to serve in the army andjoining Samurai warriors is battling his own, he opted for thisventure. Astonishingly after watching the heroic and intrepidSamurai warriors fighting the captain of the royal troop orders acease fire. This depicts that the Samurai warriors did not throw awaytheir ancient values and culture. They swore to fight to old customsand for the fallen Samurai warriors. Eventually Samurai wereoverwhelmed and their leader Katsumoto killed, in what he regarded asan honorable death. Before he met the Samurai Captain Algrenregularly fought and drank away his guilt, but it is only afterlearning the culture, norms and way of life of the Samurai that he isable to conquer his alcoholism and terrible nightmares of his past.


Samuraileader, Katsumoto is not the only hero in the movie. Captain Algrencan also be described as a hero after transformation and when he optsto stand for the right against the evil, and uphold the principlesthat guided the samurai society. First, his transformation is notprompted by any specific character but the samurai way of life. Thesamurai way of life calls for respect and requires honor, loyalty anddignity. In the movie the vision of the Japanese emperor is todestroy what he considers as old ways that are outdated and introducenew civilization in the name of western culture. In actual sense,the emperor is fighting against the old principles that have held theJapanese society together and seeks to pave way from vices suchcorruption. For example, when the emperor sends an army led byCaptain Algren to eliminate the samurai warriors, we are all awarethat the captain actions are only meant to advance the commercialneed of the Omura and his cronies in the guise of modernizing theJapanese army. After participating in the Indian massacre, somethingthat has left a moral scar in his heart, he is disgusted bybusinesspersons who use him as a tool to advance their commercialagenda from the suffering and death of other people. It is in thesamurai community that Algren finds focus in standing firm for whatis right and gets the values that give him inner peace. He is awarethat the samurai are not against modernization for its own sake, butfor fear of what this ‘modernization’ is likely to bring intotheir society- a society that is ready to lose life to pursueeconomic interest and that lacks in honor and dignity.

Theoutstanding demonstration of courage of the warriors of the Samuraiis heartrending. It is clear that such courage is uncommon in ourmodern world, and even among the western imperialist who sought tomodernize the Japanese. To the Samurai courage is not necessaryabsence of fear but devotion to the set standards and moralprinciples. Courage is the pursuit of stillness of the mind anddevotion to master technique and the way of the sword. Courage asdepicted in the movie as the desire to do everything possible untilthe day that one’s destiny is revealed.

Katsumotois a representation of what it means to be a true leader. It isapparent that Samurai people respect and hold him in high regard tothe extent that everyone is ready to sacrifice their own life inorder to play a part in helping him achieve his goal of defeatingimperialism and intruders who want to destabilize their way of life.It is also important to note that all people in the Samurai communityact out of their own conviction and affection, Katsumoto does notcoerce anyone to participate in the war but all warriors join thebattle to fight for the benefit of the whole society.

Asense of loyalty and duty is also clearly shown in the movie arisingout of the interaction between Algren and Katsumoto, and thisinteraction is a central illustration of leadership perpetuity. Inreality, this is the central issue which prevented Katsumoto fromtaking away the life of Captain Algren once he had a chance of doingso and would have been justifiable. Katsumoto watches Captain Algrenfight in the fierce battle between his warriors and the emperor’sarmy, and he is able to persevere up to the end. The Samurai leadersaw the drive and spirit of Algren in the battle and was quick toacknowledge that he exhibited leadership qualities. Therefore hefinds it more beneficial to nurture a good relationship with Algrenand when trust in him matures, his attitude towards the prisonerchanges, and Katsumoto assumes the role of a trainer and tutor. As aleader and knowing all too well that his duty was to promote what isright and good for the people of Samurai, he takes the responsibilityof guide and mold Algren character to prepare him as his successor. Therefore Katsumoto becomes the last Samurai leader.


Inconclusion, this analysis has described the distinguishing featuresthat portray leadership qualities of the Samurai leader and CaptainAlgren. The values and way of life of the Samurai is exemplified toillustrate how important values such as loyalty, honor, respect,compassion, courtesy, sincerity, justice and morality shape the wayof living of the Samurai. The last Samurai is a film thatexemplifies the character of two soldiers from different culturesthat make them alien, but whose values bridge their differences andmake them friends. The movies highlights fundamental principles thatguided the conduct of antique Japanese society, and that shaped therelationships between community members and foreigners.

Katsumotois ready to sacrifice his own life if by doing so the institution ofthe emperor would command him to do, but also maintaining the cultureas well as values of the Japanese people. However, he is well awarethat Japan has been seized with a agitation to get rid of itsmedieval ways and emulate the western culture. Katsumoto is alsoconscious of the fact that the West sees an opportunity to makeeconomic gain the duration of the transition. In the realization ofthe corruption and mission by the emperor to totally disintegrateancient Japanese values in favor of western civilization, Katsumotomusters courage to face Algren and his force. Katsumoto isrepresentation of what it means to be a true leader. It is apparentthat Samurai people respect and hold him in high regard to the extentthat everyone is ready to sacrifice their own life in order to play apart in helping him achieve his goal of defeating imperialism andintruders who want to destabilize their way of life. It is alsoimportant to note that all people in the Samurai community act out oftheir own conviction and affection, Katsumoto does not coerce anyoneto participate in the war but all warriors join the battle top fightfor the benefit of the whole society. As a leader and knowing all toowell that his duty was to promote what is right and good for thepeople of Samurai, he takes the responsibility of guide and moldAlgren character to prepare him as his successor and consequentlymaking him the last Samurai.