This is the scene where Ujio (Hiroyuki Sanada) orders Algren (Tom Cruise) to put down the wooden practice sword but ends up teaching him a lesson of humility. The scene occurs relatively early in the film and shortly after arriving at the samurai village after being captured. At this point, with the exception of Katsumoto (Ken Watanabe), most samurai want Algren dead. After all, he is the enemy. Katsumoto, however, decides he wants to “know his enemy,” and spares his life.
Uji easily takes Algren down with a hit right to his stomach. Algren gets up and is quickly knocked down again. What Algren lacks in swordsmanship he makes up for in spirit, he refuses to stay down and gets up again only to get slapped in the face with the bamboo sword. It’s a powerful scene of a man at a turning point in his life.
The Last Samurai is a spectacular epic adventure, and Tom Cruise is striking as Captain Nathan Algren, an alcoholic Union soldier from the Civil War who loses his soul on the battlefield in North America and sells himself off to the Japanese Imperial Army as a mercenary.
In capture, Algren slowly begins to heal from his wounds and starts to observe the life around him. A traditional samurai village where every man, woman, and child devotes every moment to the spiritual and physical demands of honoring and learning the art of a samurai.
“What does it mean to be Samurai? To devote yourself utterly to a set of moral principles. To seek a stillness of your mind. And to master the way of the sword.”
– Nathan Algren
The Last Samurai (2003) was directed and co-produced by Edward Zwick, who also co-wrote the screenplay with John Logan and Marshall Herskovitz. The film stars Tom Cruise, who also co-produced, with Timothy Spall, Ken Watanabe, Billy Connolly, Tony Goldwyn, Hiroyuki Sanada, Koyuki, and Shin Koyamada in supporting roles.
Tom Cruise portrays a United States Captain of the 7th Cavalry Regiment, whose personal and emotional conflicts bring him into contact with samurai warriors in the wake of the Meiji Restoration in 19th century Japan. The film’s plot was inspired by the 1877 Satsuma Rebellion led by Saigō Takamori, and the westernization of Japan by foreign powers, though in the film the United States is portrayed as the primary force behind the push for westernization. It is also influenced by the stories of Jules Brunet, a French army captain who fought alongside Enomoto Takeaki in the earlier Boshin War and to a lesser extent by Frederick Townsend Ward, an American mercenary who helped Westernize the Chinese army by forming the Ever Victorious Army.