Published on November 5th, 2008 | by Chris2
Time Slip, aka G.I. Samurai, aka Sengoku Jieitai (1979)
There are times when you just have to throw all the analysis and whatnot right out the window, and just say, "DAMN! That was a cool movie!"
Time Slip (aka G.I. Samurai) is exactly the movie that time was made for. In it, Lt. Iba's (Sonny Chiba) squad of the Japanese Self Defense Force gets thrown back in time to the time of the Shogun, the "Warring States" period of Japanese history. The time of the Samurai and feuding warlords.... and, to use a cliche, all hell breaks loose.
Sure this little time travel twist has been played out before in other films and TV, such as 1980's The Final Countdown, and at least one episode of The Twilight Zone, and probably more I'm not remembering. But few come close to the sheer awesomeness of G.I. Samurai.
Picture if you will a tank, a helicopter, a gunboat, an APC, a couple of jeeps, tons of hand grenades and automatic weapons, against the armies of feudal Japan. You'd think this'd be a pure cut-and-dried massacre, right? Not so at all.
What's great about the situation here is the twist. Instead of taking a "non-interference" route as one would expect, in order to not disrupt the flow of history and seriously screw things up, creating some sort of Back to the Future paradox.... Our heroes take the opposite route. Let's side with the local warlord and dominate the country, in an attempt to get the gods of history to "correct" the situation and send us all back! Yeah!
Ah, but only if it were that simple. To start, one of Iba's squad has designs of his own, and takes a few of the men off on his own little escapades, (literally) raping and pillaging the villages out of greed for women and goods. Eventually Iba quells this little rebellion. Which seems rather strange considering that he himself goes down a similar path, not quite as violent or rogue of a path, but a similar one nonetheless.
It turns out he's enjoying his new found status as a fellow shogun. In fact he gets a little too cocky, and tries to take on a superior (in numbers) force on his way to conquer Kyoto. He just barely succeeds, but his superior equipment of the future is destroyed, or depleted, leaving him and his remaining men with their sidearms and blades to continue their work.
On the other side, the warlord he's sided with, Kagetora, realizes (with a little help from his counsel) that this partnership is trouble, and confronts him. Long story short, the gods of history have their way, and there is no happy ending.
Just plain cool, that's all I have to say about it. The perfect blending of mechanized warfare with the typical samurai film, complete with samurai sword battles and that oh-so-cool 'zing' sound effect of the samurai blade. For we Americans this is something akin to a modern military force going back to Revolutionary War, or even Civil War times, and giving a lending hand to one side over the other. Imagine. Yes, you have to enter that whole 'suspension of disbelief' land, but it doesn't take much to get there in this movie.
As for character development, you won't find much of that here. Lt. Iba goes from the level headed officer who really doesn't want to fight, or thinks it all that cool, to typical warlord in a few screen minutes. Maybe out of the typical Japanese sense of duty or something? To the "gods of time" as they put it? Who knows. Some of his crew share his feelings, while others don't. Ranging from "it's not cool to die here for nothing!" to the guy who goes native, to the other guy who tries to get out of the "time affected" region to meet his girlfriend, who we see is waiting for him at the platform back in real time.....
But even more cool is the look at tactics and strategy of the time. Is it legit? I have no idea. But some of the mechanics of the period warfare I'd never seen before, and really are, well, cool!!
So put aside your serious war-movie-ways for a bit, tie on that headband, grab some popcorn, and settle into G.I. Samurai and let it all hang out. Sometimes you just have to.
Although I did go WTF?! quite a few times at some of their soundtrack music choices. You'll know what I mean as the translation subtitles come across the screen. WTF!!!? Is all you can say.
Summary: So put aside your serious war-movie-ways for a bit, tie on that headband, grab some popcorn, and settle into G.I. Samurai and let it all hang out. Sometimes you just have to.