I think my review title alone was reason to do a write-up on 'The Last Samurai'. Love him or hate him, Tom Cruise has led a dominant career in some very kick ass movies. He's one of those actors that seems like he can do anything. I picture his agent going to toss a script into the trash, and Cruise going, "Wait. What is that one about" The Agent replies, "Tom, trust me on this one. You play a priest who joins and then leads an Olympic bob-sledding team. It's ridiculous. We wouldn't be able to make it work."
To which Cruise responds, "Oh, we'll make it work..."
You see, it's something we call 'Cruise Control'. No, that doesn't mean Tom is laying back and letting his pearly whites and black Ray Bans do all the work for him. It means that the guy's actually a damn good actor. And when you're able to ignore his off-screen antics of couch jumping and religious aliens, the dude makes some great movies.
'The Last Samurai' is a prime example. I remember seeing this poster and thinking, "Cruise is the last samurai? He's not even Japanese!" But of course, Cruise doesn't play the last samurai. Ken Watanabe does. And when you have a director like Edward Zwick ('Glory', 'Blood Diamond'), chances are, it's going to be a very strong movie.
But let's talk about the suit-up scene, shall we? I feel conflicted on this one because, once again, my stupid memory made me remember this scene differently. I remember Cruise being suited up by Omura. This was especially powerful because, Tom's character in the movie, Nathan Algren, killed Omura's husband in battle out of self-defense. And Omura is now suiting Cruise up in her dead husband's samurai armor.
Ouch. Talk about a forgiveness.
But the actual suiting up doesn't include much armor. I think I'm over that already, because what the scene does contain is a romance and intimacy that I haven't seen captured thus far in any other suit-up scenes.
Omura and Cruise have had feelings for each other throughout the entire movie. It started as a fear and ignorance of each others cultures. Then grew to a hidden lust they each shared for each other. This lust blossomed into love and respect. And it culminates in this suit-up scene. (God I sound like I'm writing for Penthouse Letters)
The scene's shots dissolve into each other in a beautiful rhythm. Cruise allows himself to be suited by Omura... knowing how painful this act could be, yet humbled into silence by the transition she's making from her sadness by doing it. It's powerful stuff.
Unfortunately, as I said earlier, we're robbed of much actual 'suiting up'. Though when the scene builds to that moment where the two of them kiss, and then turn to face the world, you're ready for what comes next. As the samurai prepare for battle outside, Cruise emerges from the house, in full armor. It's a badass moment following a steamy, powerful suit-up scene.
That, my friends, is what Cruise told me calls 'Suit Control'. (yes, he called me shortly after reading this awesome review)