I'm going to review several other movies within the next day or so, but this particular movie deserves its own separate entry. This film is at least loosely based on the life of Kanichiro Yoshimura, during one of many periods of great upheaval in Japan. During the era in which the film happens, the US and European nations have forced Japan to acknowledge them and open trade arrangements, which in turn led to internal power struggles and civil wars.
There is some doubt as to what exactly happened to Kanichiro Yoshimura, but this movie can certainly stand on its own merits. We in the United States have certain expectations that we associate with honor. This movie ultimately asks the question of what true honor really is, and looks at the sometimes competing obligations of family, political allegiance, and even personal life.
There is some good to excellent sword work in Last Sword, including at least one draw and cut by Koichi Sato that alone would have been worth watching the movie for. Star Kiichi Nakai gives one of the best film performances I have ever seen. This film won the Japanese Film Academy's Best Film, Best Actor, and Best Supporting Actor awards for 2004, and they were all well deserved.
I'll give this film five stars for an amazing plot, and perfect acting, and take back half of one for some of the flashbacks being confusing as to timeline. In Japanese with subtitles.
4.5 of 5 stars.