ÅŒba, The Last Samurai
ÅŒba, The Last Samurai is also a visually stunning film, from an impressive opening visual effects shot to the more close-quarters claustrophobic action of the jungle skirmishes.
The film was actually shot entirely on location in Thailand, and every frame maximises the lush locations. Yet it is the relationships at the heart of the tale that make this story so fascinating, and Japanese heartthrob Takenouchi does an excellent job in portraying the stoic ÅŒba, solidifying his reputation as a leading man after years of television dramas.
The US forces aren’t played by the typical “generic gaijin“ either, with McGowan and even the scenery-chewing Baldwin carving out their own niche in a film that largely plays to the Japanese national identity. Treat Williams, who appears as a US Colonel later in the film, brings a certain gravitas to the US side of the film as well.
Familiar Japanese faces, including Sadao Abe (Maiko Haaaan!!!, Yatterman), Takayuki Yamada (13 Assassins, GANTZ) and Toshiaki Karasawa (20th Century Boys) ensure that Japan’s story is in capable hands, although Mao Inoue’s (Boys Over Flowers) sole female character is somewhat underdeveloped.