“When the Last Sword is Drawn” is a tale based around actual events of the mid-19th century in Japan, in which the opening of Japan to the western influences began its departure from the time of the samurai. I’m not going to pretend that I know anything more than that about that time period, so let me just say, think of “The Last Samurai”(2003), and you’ve got the era, if not the budget. A lesser budget, however, did not hurt this movie in any way, and I enjoyed it immensely.
Saito Hajime and Yoshimura Kanichiro are members of the Shinsengumi, a group of masterless samurai charged with protecting the shogun and keeping the peace. Saito is a cold, hardened warrior/mercenary and Yoshimura a seeming country bumpkin and buffoon of a samurai. Told by an aged Saito in a series of flashbacks, the story unfolds around Yoshimura to reveal his true character and how he came to leave his family and pursue a career in the Shinsengumi, and to serve as a philosophical counterpoint to Saito’s way of life.
Though a little long at two hours and 17 minutes, When the Last Sword is Drawn is able to give ample time to build and develop its characters. People are not easily pigeon-holed and just when I thought I had a person figured out, he surprised me. This film is a beautiful, tragic story of a man who does whatever he must to provide for his family. While his actions make him the laughingstock of his samurai brothers, he is never stripped of his dignity or the pride that stems from his deep love for his wife and children.
In this current time of global economic recession, when men around the world are struggling to put food on their tables, this movie rings true. It shows a life characterized by joy, if not always by happiness. It is not always hopeful, but it is sincere, and I give it a solid 4 Babbles.