Last Knights is a cross-cultural retelling of the Japanese 47 Ronin myth in a medieval setting. The director refers to Last Knights as a fantasy film, but it doesn’t have any magic like the other 47 Ronin movie (which is also good, and makes for a cool side-by side comparison). The magic of Last Knights comes from story’s setting in a multi-cultural empire. This is a world of knights from Africa, Asia, and Europe serving under one Emperor.
The story follows commander Raiden and his band of knights avenging their fallen master by assassinating a corrupt political official. The dialogue about standing up for honor in spite of political pressure strikes very close to home while remaining classic and timeless.
Raiden has a foil in the character of Ito a red-clad retainer of Raiden’s enemy. Ito and Raiden are essentially the same character born on opposing sides. These are two men bound by honor and it is a test to see whose loyalty breaks first.
The art direction and costume design are transcendent. The knights of the seventh rank wear sleek ninja-like armor, looking so real that upon first viewing I thought the film was a true period piece.
Last Knights also has an interesting way of displaying violence. Spoiler alert: a lot of people get decapitated. However, each beheading is different depending on the scene. Violence perpetrated against the innocent is heart-wrenching while revenge taken against the guilty is exhilarating.
The film opens with a big fight scene, dives into a harrowing drama, and concludes with an epic heist. Watching the film is like being given anesthetic before a painful operation. I was transported by the beautiful imagery while simultaneously feeling my gut punched for the plight of the characters.
Last Knights is an excellent film that deserves more attention.
If you’re feeling ambitious I would recommend watching The Last Legion, then King Arthur, and conclude the trilogy with Last Knights. There are similarities between these films that make them interesting to watch in that order.
I hope more directors see this film and make efforts to innovate the genres in movies yet to come.