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The Underrated Tom Cruise Movie You Can Watch On HBO Max

It can be difficult to find a good movie in which Tom Cruise is better at things than other people. Sure, there's the Mission: Impossible franchise in which he's better at action stuff than other people, and the Top Gun movies, in which he's better at doing planes than other people. There are also Jack ReacherRock of Ages, The Mummy, and Knight and Day, each of which features Cruise excelling in the fields of fisticuffs, age rocking, mummy wrangling, and whatever Knight and Day was about, respectively. But what if a person wanted to watch Tom Cruise cement himself as the best samurai ever? Or, at the very least, the best samurai remaining? For the discerning connoisseur, might we recommend The Last Samurai, currently available to stream on HBO Max?

The 2003 period drama sees Cruise cast as former U.S. Army captain and ambitious drinker Nathan Algren, a man whose experiences in the American Indian Wars have left him bitter, cranky, and haunted. Algren is hired to help train a newly formed, highly modern military in Japan, with the eventual goal of quelling a rebellion at the hands of samurai warriors devoted to the old way of doing things. It's a cinematic experience with breathtaking camerawork and a Hans Zimmer score from the golden age of Hans Zimmer. By the end, Jake sees things from the point of view of the Na'vi, Kevin Costner dances with some wolves, and internet sociologists have a slew of familiar topics to discuss.

The Last Samurai remains a fascinating discussion point

The Last Samurai's story was destined to divide critics — Rotten Tomatoes calculates a 66% approval rate from reviewers. Peter Travers of Rolling Stone lamented the film's "hokey narration and bombastic dialogue" in a two-star review. Conversely, Roger Ebert called it "an uncommonly thoughtful epic," celebrating the movie as "Beautifully designed, intelligently written, (and) acted with conviction."

And while The Last Samurai didn't exactly blow up stateside, recouping around 80% of its estimated $140 million budget, it did gangbusters business in Japan. Per Box Office Mojo, the same year that it was released, big name motion picture events like Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and Finding Nemo hit the country, and The Last Samurai still took second place at the box office, only beaten out by Howl's Moving Castle.

And, in a fascinating twist, The Last Samurai received a number of positive reviews with regards to its portrayal of Japanese Bushido customs

"With his pursuit of realism director Edward Zwick seeks to surmount the misunderstandings and biases made by Westerners in the past," wrote Noriki Ishitobi in the Tokyo daily newspaper the Asahi Shimbun, later quoted by The New York Times

The film received heaps of praise for its detail-oriented approach to dialects and cultural accuracy, as well as the utilization of beloved Japanese actors like Ken Watanabe and Hiroyuki Sanada.