The Twilight Samurai

129 minutes 2003

Set in the late 19th century—the waning days of the samurai caste—this elegiac 2003 drama stars veteran actor Hiroyuki Sanada as a widowed warrior of low rank who's sold his sword to cover his debts but takes up arms again when his childhood sweetheart is abused by her ex-husband, a higher-ranking fighter. Having reestablished his martial prowess, he's sent on a dangerous assignment to neutralize an outlaw samurai. Sanada's restrained performance is almost unbearably poignant, and director Yoji Yamada's professed emulation of Akira Kurosawa is evident throughout, but especially in the superbly choreographed final duel. In Japanese with subtitles.

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