A veteran of the U.S. Civil War, Captain Nathan Algren (Cruise) is hired by the Emperor Meiji to train a Japanese army as Western soldiers to defeat samurai warriors. Upon arriving in Japan in 1876, Algren is met with great uncertainty but steps forward to complete the job for which he is hired. His army is comprised of mere peasants with little or no experience in battle, and they are expected to go up against the samurai Katsumoto and his sophisticated rebels much too soon. When Algren is captured by the enemy, he is taken to their village and kept so that Katsumoto may learn more about this strange Western warrior. But what Algren would never have expected was how much he was to learn and inevitably respect the ways of the samurai. "The Last Samurai" is another stirring Civil War-era epic directed by Edward Zwick ("Glory"). (Suzanne Hodges)
Special features are the same as those found on the HD DVD in Issue 109: List One includes audio commentary with Director Edward Zwick, a 22-minute featurette which dicusses the political upheavel in Japan during the late 1800s, an 18-minute conversation with Zwick and Tom Cruise about the making-of, 12 minutes of Tom discussing the approach he took to become his on-screen character, seven minutes with Production Designer Lilly Kilbert, six minutes with Costume Designer Ngila Dickson, a five-minute segment chronicalling the basic training involved in the Imperial Army, five minutes with the authentic weapons used during filming, and a 26-minute director's video journal. List Two is home to two additonal scenes with optional commentary with Zwick, almost seven minutes of video footage from the film's premiere in Japan, the seven principles of Bushido, and the theatrical trailer, plus a reminder to visit Warner online.
The 2.40:1 Blu-ray Disc looks almost identical to the previously released HD DVD, with very well-captured details, impressively rendered colors, and no objectionable edge enhancement. This is a high-definition picture that is sure to please. (Danny Richelieu)
While Warner has fixed the encoding level problems found on the HD DVD, the Dolby® Digital Plus encoding found on that previously reviewed version does have improved fidelity and articulation, although only slightly, over this version's Dolby Digital 5.1-channel encoding. (Danny Richelieu)