Personally I'm not a big fan of Tom Cruise, but I really did like The Last Samurai. It's historical fiction, and it's also set around the same time period as one of my favorite anime shows Rurouni Kenshin. Like Kenshin, the Meiji Restoration and the aftermath of the Boshin War heavily influence the story. While it may seem silly that a Caucasian actor would be cast in a movie about Samurai, Cruise's character is based on the French officer Jules Brunet who was a veteran of Japan's Boshin War.
The movie is inspired by real events, but is given original characters and a story for more creative freedom. Basically Cruise plays Captain Nathan Algren, an American soldier who had been traumatized by the battles he fought against Native Americans. He arrives in Japan to help train Imperial Japanese troops to become more modernized. Their first challenge is a samurai rebellion which refuses to accept the changes of their country.
Algren's forces lose a battle against the samurai, and he is captured. Their leader Katsumoto (who is based on the historical Saigo Takamori) somewhat befriends Algren, and is taken care of by Taka and her son. Though he faces the bitter irony with both sides knowing that in battle he made Taka a widow. Despite the conflict, Algren eventually becomes a member of the community, and takes their side is the great battle ahead.
I was pleased to learn that it did very well not only critically but in theaters in both America and Japan. Usually American attempts at making movies heavily based on Japan and Japanese culture/history turn out horrendous, but they did a marvelous job.