First up there is an audio commentary from director Edward Zwick. He is very passionate and enthusiastic about his film and he manages to convey a lot of information, but I’m not a huge fan of single commentaries, I feel there is so much more given when there is at least two people bouncing ideas from each other, and this one is no exception. Both he and Cruise have a video ‘conversation’ in another extra and the pair would have made an excellent commentary as that team.
There are four short featurettes entitled A World of Detail which delves into the production design with Lilly Kilvert, Silk and Armour looks at the costume design with Ngila Dickson, Imperial Army Basic Training concentrating on the training of the extras as an army and finally From Soldier to Samurai is an inspection of the many the weapons used in the film. These are short and to the point featurettes, interesting for a time and they don’t outstay their welcome.
The Making an Epic: A Conversation with Edward Zwick and Tom Cruise is just that, they enthuse about the film and the beginnings of the project, as I said above would have made a good commentary team.
Tom Cruise: A Warrior's Journey is a continuation of the above conversation, but concentrates on Cruise and his training.
There are two deleted scenes with optional commentary from Zwick, one with a beheading in the street the other an extended conversation with Algren and Katsumoto. Full reasons for the excise are given and I fully endorse them, neither add much to the film, with the first being completely unnecessary.
Edward Zwick: Director's Video Journal is an interesting little feature; Zwick comments on an amount of video footage taken during the shooting of the film, in actual video diary, imagine that!
Next up, and for me the best extra on the disc, is The History Channel’s History vs. Hollywood; a popular series of shows showcasing Historic fact against the Hollywood story. The Last Samurai is pretty close to the mark with its facts even if the names have been changed and some dramatic licence has been employed. I really enjoyed this feature, gaining some perspective to the truth behind the Hollywood glitz. Its only downside was the constant fading for ad breaks and the padding from film clips, but otherwise a terrific little feature.
Rounding out this set of extras is a section on the Japan premieres of the film and the theatrical trailer.
The Last Samurai is a sweeping epic that contains many more elements than one might think from a ‘Hollywood/Cruise’ film. The small scale central relationship within the confines of civil unrest and war makes for compelling viewing, with even the odd sugar coating managing to remain watchable. As a Blu-ray package the slight problems with an otherwise excellent picture, are backed up by terrific, if quiet, sound and a full extras package.
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