Movies don’t just entertain — they can be educational too. Case in point: The Last Samurai, in which Tom Cruise plays Nathan Algren, a celebrated American soldier who is brought to Japan to modernize their army and fight the samurai. Defeated in battle, Algren is brought back to the samurai village where he gains a deep respect for their contemplative, tradition-steeped way of life and their Bushido code of honor. Here are some of the lessons he learns:
It’s OK to Respect Your Opponent
Algren manages to earn
the respect of samurai leader Katsumoto (Ken Watanable) during battle.
Good thing too: Katsumoto spares Algren’s life because he is intrigued
by the Westerner, explaining to the other samurai that Algren shouldn’t
be expected to kill himself after the defeat, because it’s not his
culture to do so. Respect and benevolence are two tenets of the samurai
code, and it this case, seem to have overriden their practice of
seppuku, the ritual of death before dishonor.
Lead a Dry Life
Algren wakes up from nearly being killed by the samurai in the forest,
he keeps asking for sake because he’s a broken, boozing mess. See,
Algren suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, the result of
witnessing so much brutality fighting for Custer. He manages to dry
out, thanks to the samurai’s clean-living ways.
Tough Guys Can Be Sensitive
is a warrior and a poet. As the two men develop a deep friendship,
Algren comes to realize that there’s more to a soldier than bravado.
Traditionally, samurai soldiers were expected to be well-read — a
literary reference to the idea of an educated warrior poet dates back
to the Eighth Century.