An embittered U.S. Civil War veteran (Tom Cruise) is hired by the emperor of Japan to help put down a rebellion of disaffected samurai; to the Yankee’s surprise, he finds meaning in his life only after being taken prisoner and seeing “the way of the samurai” firsthand. Loosely based on the doomed Satsuma Rebellion of 1877, the film is a hybrid of Dances with Wolves
and Lost Horizon
, with Cruise finding his true Shangri-La. It’s directed by Edward Zwick (from a script he co-wrote with John Logan and Marshall Herskovitz) in a mood of blissful tranquility—any more tranquil, in fact, and the movie probably would slip into a coma. The movie’s real stars are Ken Watanabe as Cruise’s enemy-turned-friend (he’s as charismatic as the young Yul Brynner) and the gorgeous cinematography of John Toll.