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Friday Fight Scene - The Last Samurai

Friday Fight Scene - The Last Samurai’s Five On One:

The Last Samurai is cause for no small amount of eye-rolling in my household because, for those not-in-the-know, my significant other is Japanese (her nickname is the Samurai Lady, actually) and she finds more than a bit of it ridiculous… I dragged her to see it in theaters and she’s never let me forget about it…

Whatever its flaws as a story (and yeah, Cruise does learn to speak Japanese fluently in a ridiculously short amount of time) as a film, it’s one I enjoy for many reasons, one of which is the fight scenes. It’s got an awesome ninja attack fight scene, and the kendo / bokken training scenes alone are worth the price of admission.

Today’s focus will be on Cruise’s 5 on 1 scene, he has to defeat five armed men… and he himself is unarmed. It’s not my favorite fight scene in the film (the aforementioned ninja attack would win that) but it is, however, a fantastic example of how a fight scene can be re-imagined, staged and shot to reflect on how it is in real life without compromising the viewer of what happened. I’ll explain more down below, first the background:

While in exile up in the mountains, Cruise has chosen to train in kendo, the way of the sword, and learns the way of NO-MIND (empty mind) is the best possible way to react in the right way (get the thinking out of the way, let training and instinct take over, etc, it’s a very Buddhist concept)…

In the city, Cruise is followed and encircled by five men with swords… and he has no pistol or sword. The pauses, empties his mind… and goes…

And here is where Ed Zwick (the director) did something really awesome… he lets the fight roll out in real time… bing, bang, boom… and it’s done, just like that, fast and furious, in real life…

Then, as Cruise collects himself, he relives it in his own mind, catching up to what happened in slow motion, and the fight is even better for it…

And once that’s over, he adds another real time action button on the to cap everything off.

It’s a great fight scene, and an awesome example of how to stage something so it feels well yet is also enhanced enough that the audience can catch it.

Here’s the scene, and I recommend you go full screen when watching:

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