‘Sengoku Jieitai or Time Slip’ Review: Samurai versus Soldiers

Posted in Screening Room by - February 24, 2015

Sengoku Jietai, otherwise known as Time Slip, and just as frequently referred to as G.I. Samurai is a film released in Japan in 1979, starring Sonny Chiba, probably best known in in American audiences as Hattori Hanzo from Kill Bill.

Sengoku Jietai is a film about a squadron of Japanese Self Defense troops, set some time near the release of the film, being sent back in time to the warring states period by an unexplained phenomenon that may be related to solar flares. The group of men, equipped with modern weapons, a jeep mounted fifty cal, a tank, a PT boat, and a helicopter, must attempt to survive and find their way back to their own time. Sonny Chiba plays Lieutenant Iba, the leader of the collected group of Japanese soldiers. The rest of the squadron is composed of the standard tropes, including a psychotic subordinate, a love struck man hoping to be reunited with his girl, a kiss ass second in command, and an awkward overweight trooper.

A group of samurai approach the G.I.s and open a line of conversation. A warlord’s second in command named Kagetora Nagao, played by Isao Natsuyagi, expresses great interest in the technology and weaponry of the modern day men. With the joy and excitement of a child in a freshly cleaned ball pit, he opens fire with the fifty caliber machine gun, all the while trying to pronounce the word “caliber”. The soldiers are hesitant to agree to the alliance, fearing that any harm they enact on the native residents might alter their own future. When a rival samurai group suspect they have already cemented the pairing, they attack themselves, killing two of the G.I.s, who retaliate by attacking the fortifications with their rocket launcher and tank. Different members of the unit have different theories about how to react to being thrown through time. Some believe the anomaly is restricted to a certain radius, and run from the camp to find their way back to their own time. The Psychopath and a few others decide to steal the PT boat and become pirates, raping and pillaging their way along the coast. Another soldier believes that if he dies in a large enough explosion, his spirit will be thrown back through time.

Eventually Nagoa betrays his master and convinces Iba that together they can rule the country. Iba decides that he will force history to act in order to fix its mistake by causing so much damage to the time line that there is no other way for nature to fix itself. By the climax of the film there are eleven soldiers left who decide that if thy have to go out, they might as well go down swinging, which gives us the crowning jewel of an otherwise pointless film. A nearly half hour long scene in which Iba brings his group to battle against a much larger enemy. It is here that we get to watch the combat between relatively modern soldiers and a horde of ancient samurais, ninjas, and peasant militias. After this point, the film takes another thirty minutes to wrap up the plot.

Most of the acting is melodramatic and absurd. Surprise and drama is expressed by having a few of the actors run up and down the beach wildly with expressions of terror. The characters are obvious and tired. The plot is blunt and uninspired. The sound track is counter intuitive in most instances, projecting a tone far different then that in the scenes being shown. At one point Iba and Nagao take part in a two minute montage in which they share their technology and culture with one another to a musical score that made me feel as though the pair might also have been making sweet sweet samurai love. However, the majority of the action scenes are entertaining, and the climactic battle between the past and present is a portion of the film that I have watched many times simply for it’s entertainment value and its absurdity. If you like foreign films, Asian cinema, absurd film premises, Sonny Chiba, or really poorly paired musical montages, Check out Time Slip. Otherwise, take a pass.

Final Say: Skip it (but watch the climax if you ever find a copy)


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Born in Arizona, he currently resides in Denton, Texas. When he isn't watching movies he's playing board games and drinking whatever he can get his hands on. John watches Djimon Honsou movies because he likes Spawn, which had Michael Jai White.
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