Reviews provided by RottenTomatoes
Detroit Free Press:
Mostly it just reminds us anew how difficult it is to make convincing entertainment on a grandiose scale, especially when all involved are taking themselves so terribly seriously.
A stunning spectacle of cultural violence and a loving tribute to the great Japanese samurai movies.
New York Times:
The uneven Samurai is a can-do movie that's far more effective at communicating emotion in bigger scenes than in more intimate ones.
As movie-star vehicles go, Last Samurai is a fine, well-crafted example.
Eleanor Ringel Gillespie,
A handsome, well-crafted production with strong work by the magnetic Watanabe and by Cruise, who continues to make riskier choices than he needs to.
Big and square and rousing, Edward Zwick's epic drama has been brought to the screen with all the muscle and splendor Hollywood can call up.
Los Angeles Times:
Taken on the level of spectacle rather than of sense, The Last Samurai affords the sort of fizzy enjoyment that can come with epic movie endeavors.
Despite the slow-moving and overly reverential parts, Algren's passage from bitter, self-loathing alcoholic to a man renewed and committed is emotionally satisfying in a way many bloated recent Hollywood productions can't accomplish.
Paul Clinton (CNN.com),
A spectacular epic adventure, and Cruise is stunning as Captain Nathan Algren.
Nearly all of The Last Samurai's deficiencies spring from the screenplay... As respectful as it is about the similarities of different cultures, it also doesn't quite elude an aura of noble otherness.
The only history that bears a real influence on The Last Samurai is the history of Hollywood moviemaking, and the unfortunate way it has of turning extraordinary stories into hopelessly ordinary ones.
Through it all, Tom Cruise stares soulfully past the camera, on toward a catering truck where sushi rolls and ham sandwiches dwell side by side in harmony.
New York Magazine/Vulture:
The Last Samurai is an idyll in which the savageries of existence are transcended by spiritual devotion. That's a beautiful dream, and it gives the film a deep pleasingness, but the fullness of life and its blackest ambiguities are sacrificed.
It's not a great or even particularly provocative drama, but it is well made, and one that adult adventure fans can go to without embarrassment.
New York Daily News:
Cruise isn't horribly miscast, a la Tony Curtis in The Son of Ali Baba or John Wayne as Genghis Khan in The Conqueror, but he doesn't miss by far.
New York Observer:
Even though The Last Samurai is brutal, exhausting and so not my kind of movie, it is extremely well-made and undeniably engrossing.
Grand and undersized, truncated and overlong, The Last Samurai reminds us just enough of what epics used to be to disappoint.
The Last Samurai earns every minute of its near two-and-one-half hour running length. There's no fat to trim, and no sense that scenes have been included to pad the ego of the director and/or his star.
Beautifully designed, intelligently written, acted with conviction, it's an uncommonly thoughtful epic.
A benumbed epic with an action figure for a hero.
San Francisco Chronicle:
Cruise's undeniable star voltage makes it all palatable, and the film is gorgeous to behold and even to listen to.
Globe and Mail:
Grandly overblown and deeply cornball, The Last Samurai is a visually detailed historical recreation of 19th-century Japan that's as thin as rice paper in ideas.
It looks great in a costume spectacle way, and it has some truly terrific action sequences.
It's easy to stand back and wax ironic about The Last Samurai. But it's not all that difficult to succumb to its full-spirited romanticism either.
Competently mounted in its studiedly immersive, elongated way, Zwick's earnest costume epic dresses a knee-jerk, reactionary sensibility in exotic garb.
It's all so stolid and humorless, even the scenes in San Francisco, without compensating epic sweep.
Disappointingly content to recycle familiar attitudes about the nobility of ancient cultures, Western despoilment of them, liberal historical guilt, the unrestrainable greed of capitalists and the irreducible primacy of Hollywood movie stars.
The least one can say for this costume action flick is that it hits bottom immediately.