Edward Zwick directs this sumptuously designed, action-packed period epic that stars Tom Cruise as Captain Nathan Algren. Algren, a former Civil War hero, is adrift in 1870s San Francisco after the war, a lost soul struggling to stay afloat in a booze-soaked stupor. When he is recruited by the Japanese government to train the Emperor's army, he departs for the unknown shores of Japan and begins training the soldiers in American military tactics.
But these skills are useless against a band of samurai rebels led by the proud warrior Katsumoto (Ken Watanabe), and Algren is easily defeated. He is taken to a remote samurai village where he learns samurai warrior codes and ways of life, developing a deep bond with Katsumoto and sharing philosophical conversations with him. Caught between the feudal culture of the ancient samurai warriors and the encroachment of modern society, Algren is forced to choose between his own culture or Katsumoto's.