The Last Samurai: David James
EW Staff
November 25, 2003 AT 05:00 AM EST

”The Last Samurai” is one of the 10 holiday movies we can’t wait to see

WHY WE CAN’T WAIT Tom Cruise gets to wield a samurai sword in this period drama that’s a little bit ”Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” and a lot ”Gladiator.” Training Cruise in swordsmanship was Nick Powell, who did the same on ”Gladiator,” while screenwriter John Logan, who helped bring both popcorn-action heroics and awards-worthy epic sweep to ”Gladiator,” cowrote ”Samurai.”

SOURCE MATERIAL The true story of 19th-century warrior Saigo Takamori, who was dubbed the last samurai

PLOT POINTS Set in 1870s Japan, ”Samurai” is about an American Civil War vet (Cruise) who gets caught between the archaic samurai warriors and the modernizing emperor who wants to wipe them out, along with all traces of Japan’s feudal past. Ed Zwick, helmer of thoughtful war dramas (”Glory,” ”Courage Under Fire”), directs.

BURNING QUESTION Can ”Samurai” make viewers forget Cruise’s last 19th-century costume saga, 1992’s soggy ”Far and Away”?

COME FOR Displays of samurai swordplay

STAY FOR Displays of samurai honor

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