I loved the Last Samurai movie, and think Tom Cruise did a great job in it.
I learned a few weeks ago, from a fellow Iaido student that the story of Nathan Algren was actually inspired from the life of an actual French Army officer named Jules Brunet.
Brunet was part of a first military Mission sent by the French government to Japan to modernize the troops of the Shogun in 1867.
|Jules Brunet in 1890|
In 1868, the Shogun was overthrown in the Boshin War, the Emperor Meiji was restored to full power and the French military mission was ordered to leave Japan by Imperial decree.
However, Brunet chose to remain with the faction loyal to the Shogun Tokugawa Yoshinobu , also favorable to the Interests of France. He resigned - actually deserted - from the French army, and left for northern Japan with the remains of the Shogunate's armies to help them organize the resistance to the imperial troops.
|Jules Brunet and his Samurai Team|
When the troops loyal to the Shogun were decimated, Brunet managed to board a ship and sail back to France where he was court martialed for his desertion. As he was immensely popular in France, where newspapers had published his story, he just received a 6 month time out sentence, after which he was reinstated and promoted in the Armed Forces.