Tom Cruise is the last samurai

Last Samurai - This is the real story behind the Tom Cruise movie

In the Oscar-nominated historical epic Last Samurai, Tom Cruise plays the former alcoholic soldier Nathan Algren, who travels to Japan to train the imperial army in the use of firearms. After an attack, he is captured by rebelling samurai and initiated into the dying culture. With the katana in hand, he finally fights alongside the samurai. Set during the last samurai rebellions during the Meji era in the late 19th century, Last Samurai does not give an exact representation of the historical events, but takes some real personalities as models. So we want to tell you the real story behind Last Samurai. The film runs tonight at 8:15 p.m. on Kabel Eins.

Tom Cruise as Nathan Algren

The real Nathan Algren
Tom Cruise's character is loosely based on the French officer Jules Brunet. He was sent to Japan as part of the French military mission in 1867 to modernize the shogunate's army and to train in the use of artillery. But even after the fall of the shogunate and the beginning of the Meji Restoration under the rule of the new emperor, Brunet fought in vain on the side of the samurai. With the Meji Restoration, Japanese society was completely reshaped under a new political system and the once honorable samurai were stripped of their status.

With the abolition of the feudal system, Brunet was to be withdrawn from his mission. But he resigned from the French army and joined the samurai to establish an independent republic on the island of Ezo (also known as Hokkaido), far from the imperial central government. During the defense on the island of Hokkaido, there was a final battle between the remaining samurai and the imperial army. However, this was in the superiority and slaughtered the last samurai. Jules Brunet was then escorted back to France in 1869. (Source: War History Online)

Ken Watanabe as Katsumoto

The real samurai rebellion
In Last Samurai, Nathan Algren joins the rebellion of the samurai Moritsugu Katsumoto (Ken Watanabe). This rebellion also has a real model: the Satsuma rebellion. Since there were numerous other revolts by the samurai in the run-up to the Satsuma rebellion, one can only speculate about the exact models and battles. However, this uprising was the last of its kind against the new government of the emperor and can therefore best be seen - especially in connection with the film title - as a likely template of Last Samurai.

Numerous restructurings and bans resulted from the Meji Restoration. These hit the samurai particularly hard. They no longer received any money paid by the government, lost the privilege of carrying their swords and the status symbol of their special hair buns were also banned. The revolt in Satsuma Province occurred in 1877 under the leadership of the influential samurai Saigo Takamori. With great support from the regional population, Saigo Takamori was able to lead a considerable samurai army against the soldiers of the emperor. But his troops were further decimated from battle to battle. In the end, Saigo Takamori died in the hail of bullets from the enemy, whereupon the last remaining samurai were also killed in a final battle. In Last Samurai, too, Katsumoto's samurai fall under rifle fire in a final battle against the emperor's troops.

At the end of Last Samurai, Nathan Algren goes to see the young emperor Mutsuhito. This was actually a real person with the same name. At the age of 14, Mutsuhito was placed on the throne under the title Meji. The Meji era is named after him.

What do you think of Last Samurai with Tom Cruise? Did you know the real facts?