A samurai is walking along on a small rocky road. His trusty sword is by his side as always, he never leaves home without it. He must always be on alert, always be ready to die in fight. Any moment the blade could be exposed. It would take him a second to end your life. Youd be dead before you knew it. Before you even felt the blade. Thats how fast he is. Thats how sharp his blade is.
The samurai stops. What now? Has he discovered an old enemy? Has someone offended him simply by being alive? One thing is certain: Someones life is about to end. The samurai bends down... and smells some flowers! The thud you never hear is the sound of your own body hitting the ground. You have just died of boredom, and you're not even halfway through Twilight Samurai yet...
The samurai Iguchi has lost his wife, and now he lives alone with his two daughters and his senile mother, struggling to make ends meet. These are tough times, especially for a proud ex-samurai, so Iguchi has to work hard, and when he gets home he has to do all the housework as well. His family is encouraging him to find a new wife, but hes not ready yet.
Iguchi has a good friend Michinojo, whose little sister Tomoe has just divorced her alcoholic husband. She used to play with Iguchi when they were kids, so she feels comfortable around him. To get away from her bad experience, she seeks shelter in his house. She soon feels at home and begins to take on the house chores, even Iguchis daughters quickly take a liking to her.
When Tomoes ex-husband threatens her, Iguchi steps in, and suddenly he finds himself in a duel fighting for her honor. But Iguchi has taken an oath not to draw his sword again, so he manages to outmaneuver his opponent just using a wooden stick. The duel is quickly over, and everything is back to normal. Little does Iguchi know that rumors about the fight have begun to circulate, and soon hell be forced to pick up his sword for real.
Okay, I have to be honest. Twilight Samurai is nowhere near as boring a I indicated to begin with. I took a little artistic license to prove a point. This film is not for the action-hungry Asian cinema fan. There are only two fights in the film. A short one and a slightly longer one. To be fair, the film does an excellent job just being a sweet gentle drama about simple things. Let this be said unequivocally: If patience is a virtue, then "The Twilight Samurai" is a saint.
I like quiet introspective films, but I have my limits. Twilight Samurai crosses the line. The film successfully achieves what it obviously sets out to achieve, but I reserve the right to be bored.
Director Yoji Yamada keeps his shots wide, avoiding close-up of the actors' faces, and he doesn't like to move his camera much either. The cinematography has a stale uninspired feeling to it. Perhaps thats because this movie belongs to the actors, and Yoji Yamada is not about to let his camera interfere with that.
Hiroyuki Sanada is likeable in the lead. He does a lot with very little, just like he did in the Tom Cruise epic "The Last Samurai". Kudos must also go to Rie Miyazawa. who plays Tomoe, for a detailed and heart warming performance. Their moments together are among the best scenes in the film. When the couple finally realize they're meant for each other, the film handles their realisation with an impressive sense of delicacy. I must admit I got a tad tearful.
The film is wrapped in an unnecessary narration by one of the daughters, looking back on her childhood. Its a little distracting, but not really a big problem. Until the end that is. Suddenly, during the best moments, the narration takes over the story, spoils the ending and ruins the emotional impact of the story! Completely baffling.
Bottom-line: Theres no denying that Twilight Samurai has a smooth, even feel to it, but in the end it suffers from the same fate as Iguchi: A crippling lack of ambition.