Having grown bored of mythical Asian action films, it is nice to see a diamond in the rough in the form of "The Twilight Samurai," the Japanese film that was nominated for Best Foreign Picture in last year's Academy Awards.
About a low-class samurai who has to deal with ridicule from his colleagues and single parenthood, "The Twilight Samurai" is one of the more touching and moving films of 2003 (although it wasn't released in the U.S. until 2004). The movie takes a look at Seibei Iguchi (Hiroyuki Sanada), cruelly dubbed Twilight, who has to balance the duties of a samurai with the pressures of home life. His wife has died, leaving him to care for his two young daughters and senile mother. Though mildly content with his life, even if he is poor and others mock him, he finds true happiness in the presence of a childhood friend named Tomoe (Rie Miyazawa), who has become a beautiful and caring woman. Though there is definitely a bond between them, he is reluctant to ask for her hand in marriage because he doesn't want to drag her into a life of poverty.
"The Twilight Samurai" possesses everything a great movie should, with beautiful direction, strong and believable characters and a plot filled with tension. Essentially a subtle romance, the movie is amazingly tense as the audience gets drawn into the conflict Twilight must deal with in regards to Tomoe. The two people obviously love one another, but Twilight has good reason to ignore his feelings for Tomoe's benefit.
On top of everything else, the two action scenes in the movie are also very tense. Though "The Twilight Samurai" is clearly a drama, there is a bit of action, especially toward the end. In a movie like this, it is never clear whether the lead character will live or die. Sanada is so impressive in the lead he makes us truly care for him.
"The Twilight Samurai" is one of the best movies ever to make it across the Pacific. Don't let the subtitles deter you!
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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