Strange how former super-soldiers inevitably leave the army and set up crappy bars or barely successful farms. Even Chris "Bravo Two-Zero" Ryan managed to forge a new career in the media and acquire a heap of cash as a terrible novelist, and he's most successful for taking part in a massive fuck-up. Here the hero is Kashima, presumably a former wonderboy, because he's chosen for one of the most important missions ever - to save the World. Imagine that!
Two years ago, some experimental Magnetic Shield technology actually sent a modern Japanese armoured unit back in time by mistake. This is all thanks to a "Time Slip", and since the actors actually say it in English, it's obviously not a phrase in the Japanese language. I'm not convinced it exists in English either, but some hot female scientist says it's real and she must know what she's on about because it was all her idea.
Now, thanks to some unknown events in the past, a black hole threatens everything in our time. A rescue mission is promptly assembled, and sent back to 1549 AD to rescue them or kill them if they've gone nuts (you'll never guess).
Question one must be : Why would you send your most cack-handed men back on a mission through time? I suppose it's one way of punishing them, bit it seems silly when they are ambushed time and again by that most ingenious of tricks - hiding in some grass. Soon, though, thanks to the galvanising effects of combat and the indomitable spirit of the Japanese soldier under duress, previously hopeless men become killing machines and start kicking some ancient ass. Having a fully-armed combat helicopter has nothing to do with it, though. Honestly.
It's actually quite interesting to see how a modern armoured unit can be taken apart by Samurai, since it explains all the times when I've played the computer game 'Civilization' and have to watch my tanks get ripped apart by spearmen. To make things even harder on themselves, the army uses special non-lethal rounds, so as not to kill any of their ancestors and disrupt the future even more. The trouble is, the first lot through have set up home in the past and formed a Samurai clan of their own utilising a mixture of the new and the old, and even constructing a bleeding great oil refinery. This means trouble when they refuse to come back to 2005.
As one might expect, this film is really just about the novelty value of watching a Samurai manning a .50 cal machine gun, or wielding an assault rifle. The plot is bobbins - nevertheless it whips along and you get to see all kinds of oddball action. Strangest of all is the way we are treated to close-up death scenes of some of the lesser characters, complete with stirring final words and live-action mourning - yet we hardly knew them. There is so little characterisation that we are expected to become attached to them purely because they are brave. Hell, I'd be brave too if I had a gun and my opponent had a sword.
Surprisingly, this is not the ultra-low budget film one might expect. The producers clearly spotted a niche in the market and have backed their horse handsomely (for the genre). For a film that is essentially "Samurai vs Marines" it has some nice costumes and good effects. There's lots of explosions, some Apache's getting hit with surface to air missiles and even a volcano. OK, it's not going to compete with Mission Impossible 3 or anything, but given the obvious handicap of the script, they've done alright.
I would recommend drinking heavily before watching this film. Also, it's utterly devoid of humour, so you'll need to find some of your own. Trust me, it's not difficult.
There is a great bonus extra on the DVD, a sort of mini-documentary covering the movie's promotion (referred to as a 'presentation' for some reason) which was planned like a military operation. That is to say, real soldiers in real APC's drive into Tokyo and park on a bit of red carpet while the star tells the assembled press what a great film it is. The lieutenant in charge is filmed giving some directions to his men, who spend most of their time coughing and fidgeting. I always thought the Japanese Army would be masters of discipline, but these guys are more like Kelly's Heroes. Despite being a rag-tag bunch, the Army takes itself incredibly seriously so the mission, essentially 'some vehicles driving down the motorway' is treated like a patrol in Basra.
One other thing - the promotional literature announces the flim as "Akira Kurosawa meets Francis Ford Coppola". That must be assuming that the two great men met and wrestled around in a pile of shit.