Director Louis Malle made his feature debut in 1958 at age 24 with Elevator to the Gallows (The Criterion Collection; Movie •••½, Picture/Sound •••½, Extras •••½), a coolly controlled tale of a murder plot gone awry.
The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada (Sony; Movie ••••, Picture/Sound ••••, Extras •••) didn't win any major American awards, but for many who saw the directorial debut of actor Tommy Lee Jones, this beautiful yet unsentimental take on the modern Western was the film to beat in 2005.
<I>The Last Samurai</I> is a movie that succeeds more than I expected it to in spite of Tom Cruise giving one of the worst performances of all time by an actor of his stature (and I’m not referring to his diminutive height here). I didn't see <I>Samurai</I> in the theater because I was repelled by its marriage of subject matter and star. And no, I'm not a Tom Cruise hater at all. I just had a hard time imagining him in a Samurai picture of any kind. And even my lowered expectations didn't prepare me for how laughably unconvincing Cruise is here as the adrift Civil War hero Nathan Algren. Cruise's performance is all the more frustrating because the man can be nothing short of brilliant when he wants to be (see <I>Born on the Fourth of July</I>, <I>Magnolia</I> and even <I>Interview with the Vampire</I> for proof positive).