I recorded 'The Twilight Samurai' when it was shown on BBC4 a week or so back (at time of writing) and only watched it last night with my dear old mother (again, at time of writing)! I have a fair knowledge of Far Eastern cinema and knew that this film wasn't an action romp or embellished piece of film-making. Neither was it a sweeping epic show-casing massive battle fields, beautiful landscapes and / or gigantic cities. This was a drama through-and-through, and a very good one at that. Anyone expecting an ultra-violent samurai flick or something on those lines will be disappointed, but I like to think they would persist with their viewing experience because there is a good chance they may come away rewarded with their preserverance (here's hoping).
I was captivated with The Twilight Samurai on multiple levels. The small cast of characters were all genuinely interesting and particular the main lead I found highly engaging. This was a character I cared about. The film oozed the feeling of history and culture, and the atmosphere amplified this aspect no end. This was simple and highly effective film-making (it was nice to watch a relatively modern film that didn't use flashy editing techniques, jerky hand-held cameras and elaborate visual trickery to keep people with short-attention spans interested. In fact, this film wouldn't have worked if it had tried to be to elaborate!). I loved the way it was shot and the camera angles really impressed me. Even the sound had a subtle quality to it (whether it was the background sounds or the musical score).
Indeed, my mother who has never really watched a "proper" Japanese film (or a film from the Far East region in general) was transfixed from beginning-to-end. I suspect a lot of her stereotypical notions of what Japanese film-making is all about had been nicely chipped away with this effort. She even said she would certainly be more willing to watch films from the Far East region after her enjoyment of this wonderful movie. And who can blame her on the evidence of this, eh?
On a personal note, one aspect I loved about our lead character was his contentment and happiness in the simple things. He wasn't interested in the pursuit of power, wealth or "improved" status. He wasn't a cheap-thrill seeker. He just cared about his family. This is an aspect in life (particulary modern-life) that people should pay more attention to. I know and have known many people who always want more, thanks to multiple factors such as media and the obsession with "celebrities" as well as the insatiable desire for materialistic gain. There may be nothing wrong with ambition, but in no way does it guarantee one shall live a more fulfilling life than someone content in the more simple things (probably the reverse in my opinion). Thought I'd add that!
Overall I thought The Twilight Samurai was an absolutely superb film and an example of what one misses out on if they have the prejudice of only sticking with english spoken films (fools!).
The DVD may not have any substantial extra features but it does offer Japanese language (with english subtitles) Dolby Digital 2.0, 5.1 and 5.1 DTS sound options and a beautiful picture.
My verdict: brilliant, brilliant film!