Inception

  • Directors: Christopher Nolan
  • Producers: Christopher Nolan, Emma Thomas
  • Writers: Christopher Nolan
  • Genres: Action, Sci-Fi, Thriller
  • Actors: Leonardo DiCaprio, Ken Watanabe, Joseph Gordon Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Ellen Page, Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, Tom Berenger, Michael Caine

A contemporary science fiction action thriller set within the architecture of the mind.

The Last Samurai

  • Directors: Edward Zwick
  • Producers: Tom Cruise, Tom Engelman, Marshall Herskovitz, Scott Kroopf, Paula Wagner, Edward Zwick
  • Writers:
  • Genres: Action, Adventure, Drama, War
  • Actors: Tom Cruise, Timothy Spall, Billy Connolly, Tony Goldwyn, Ken Watanabe, Hiroyuki Sanada, Koyuki Kato, Shin Koyamada

Captain Nathan Algren (Tom Cruise), born in United Kingdom but naturalized American, is a disenchanted Ex-United States Army captain, tortured by the guilt of his past transgressions against Native American civilians. After losing his previous job of sharing his old war experiences in public demonstrations, he is recruited by his former commanding officer Lieutenant Colonel Bagley (Tony Goldwyn), whom Algren loathes and blames for his waking nightmares, on behalf of a Japanese businessman, Mr. Omura (Masato Harada). He is hired to help the new Meiji Restoration government train the new Western-style Imperial Japanese Army. With him are his old army colleague Zeb Gant (Billy Connolly) and Simon Graham, (Timothy Spall) a British translator.

Under the command of Bagley, Algren trains an army of peasants and farmers in firearm techniques, and before they are sufficiently trained, is forced to take them into battle to defend Omura’s investment in a new railway, against a group of samurai rebels led by Katsumoto (Ken Watanabe). During the battle, the samurai slaughter Algren’s vulnerable soldiers, and Bagley withdraws from the field. Gant kills several samurai, but is soon killed. Algren manages to kill some samurai (including the samurai who killed Gant) with a pistol, a saber and a broken spear embroidered with a flag depicting a white tiger. Despite his best efforts he is soon overpowered. However, the flag on the spear reminds Katsumoto of a vision he had during meditation, of a white tiger fighting off his attackers. Seeing the resemblance, Katsumoto makes Algren his prisoner instead of letting his samurai kill him. In self-defense the badly wounded Algren deals a death blow to Katsumoto’s own brother-in-law, the red-masked Samurai, Hirotaro. He is taken to an isolated village, where he gradually recovers from his wounds (as well as his rampant alcoholism). He lives with the family of Hirotaro, namely his widow Taka, her two sons and Katsumoto’s son Nobutada (Shin Koyamada). Over time, Algren’s mental and emotional state improve as he learns the way of the samurai, (Bushido). He develops romantic feelings for Taka, studies swordsmanship from a skilled sword master (Ujio) and learning Japanese, converses with the local residents, gaining their respect.

The movie ends and the viewer realizes that the narrator of the story is Simon Graham. Algren then returns to the samurai village where he was imprisoned earlier, and to Taka. Graham philosophically concludes Algren found a measure of peace “that we all seek, and few of us ever find.”

Letters from Iwo Jima

  • Directors: Clint Eastwood
  • Producers: Clint Eastwood, Robert Lorenz, Steven Spielberg
  • Writers: Screenplay, Iris Yamashita, Story, Iris Yamashita, Paul Haggis, Book, Tadamichi Kuribayashi, Tsuyuko Yoshido
  • Genres: Drama, History, War
  • Actors: Ken Watanabe, Kazunari Ninomiya, Tsuyoshi Ihara, Ryo Kase

In the present day, Japanese archaeologists explore tunnels on Iwo Jima. They find something in the dirt and the scene changes to Iwo Jima in 1944. Private First Class Saigo, a baker conscripted into the Imperial Japanese Army, and his platoon are grudgingly digging beach trenches on the island. Meanwhile, Lieutenant General Tadamichi Kuribayashi arrives to take command of the garrison and immediately begins an inspection of the island defenses. He saves Saigo and his friend Kashiwara from a beating for having uttered ‘unpatriotic speeches’ and orders the men to stop digging trenches on the beach and begin tunnelling defenses into Mount Suribachi.

Later, Lieutenant Colonel Baron Takeichi Nishi, a famous Olympic gold medalist show jumper, joins Kuribayashi for dinner. They discuss the grim prospect of no naval support and the fanaticism their fellow officers would show. Kuribayashi evacuates the civilian population of Iwo Jima to mainland Japan. He clashes with some of his senior officers, who do not agree with his strategy of defending inland instead of the beaches; Kuribayashi believes the Americans will take the beaches quickly, and only the mountain defenses will have a better chance for holding out against the enemy.

Poor nutrition and unsanitary conditions take their toll on the garrison; many die of dysentery, including Kashiwara. The Japanese troops begin using the caves as barracks. Kashiwara’s replacement, a young soldier named Superior Private Shimizu, arrives for duty on the island. Saigo and his friends suspect that Shimizu is a spy sent from Kempeitai to report on disloyal soldiers. The first American aerial bombings occur shortly after, causing significant casualties. After the raid, Saigo is sickened when he sees the corpse of a friend, still sitting upright. Another casualty was Jupiter, Baron Nishi’s horse, which was also killed by a bomb. The raid forces the Japanese to dig deeper into the volcanic island. The battle for Iwo Jima begins.

The scene shifts back to the Japanese archaeologists who uncover the bag of letters written by Japanese soldiers on the island, never sent, that Saigo buried in 1945. As the letters fall from the bag, the voices of the fallen Japanese soldiers are heard reading from them.

Batman Begins

  • Directors: Christopher Nolan
  • Producers: Emma Thomas, Larry J Franco, Charles Roven
  • Writers: Screenplay, Christopher Nolan, David S Goyer, Story, David S Goyer, Comic Book, Bob Kane, Bill Finger
  • Genres: Action, Crime, Thriller
  • Actors: Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Liam Neeson, Katie Holmes, Gary Oldman, Cillian Murphy, Morgan Freeman, Tom Wilkinson, Rutger Hauer, Ken Watanabe

Eight-year-old Bruce Wayne falls into a well, where he encounters a swarm of bats. Later, he accompanies his parents to a production of Mefistofele, which features actors dressed as bats. Having developed a fear of bats, he urges his father to leave the opera. Outside the theater, Joe Chill mugs and kills Bruce’s parents. Although Chill is later arrested, Bruce blames himself for his parents’ murders.

Fourteen years later, Bruce returns to Gotham City from Princeton University, intent on killing Chill, whose prison sentence is being suspended in exchange for testifying against mobster Carmine Falcone. Before he can act, however, one of Falcone’s assassins kills Chill. Bruce tells his childhood friend Rachel Dawes about his plan; Appalled, Rachel tells him that his father would be ashamed of him. Bruce confronts Falcone, who tells him that he is ignorant of the nature of crime, so Bruce decides to travel the world to understand the criminal mind. He is detained for theft in a Bhutanese prison, where he meets Henri Ducard. Ducard invites Bruce to join an elite vigilante group, the League of Shadows, led by Ra’s al Ghul. Bruce is freed and travels to a mountaintop to begin his training with the League. Bruce overcomes his childhood fear of bats in the process. When he is ordered to execute a criminal and learns of Ra’s intention to destroy Gotham, he refuses and escapes by lighting the League’s temple on fire, killing Ra’s in the process. Bruce rescues an unconscious Ducard from the wreckage and leaves him at a village.

Following the battle, Batman becomes a public hero. Bruce Wayne gains control of Wayne Enterprises and installs Fox as the new CEO. However, he is unable to hold onto Rachel, who cannot reconcile her love for Bruce with his dual life as Batman. Newly-promoted Lieutenant Gordon unveils a Bat-Signal for Batman. Gordon mentions that they will have their hands full finding all of the psychopaths released from Arkham by Ra’s, and in particular notes a criminal who also has “a taste for the theatrical” and leaves Joker playing cards at all of his crime scenes. Batman promises to investigate it, and disappears into the night.