Samurai Commando: Mission 1549

Director: Masaaki Tezuka
Duration: 119 minutes
Production Company: Kadokawa Pictures

This is apparently a remake of an old Sonny Chiba film called G.I. Samurai that I haven’t had the pleasure of seeing though co-incidentally I just picked up the DVD a short time ago. It certainly has a familiar feel to it though of many similar time traveling films in which people intrude into the past and make a mess of the future like a priest with the choir boys. But I have to admit that no matter how many times I come across this theme whether in a Star Trek movie, the Korean film Heaven’s Soldiers or the TV series The Time Tunnel I never tire of it. The infinite ways you can play with time travel and its effects on the future used to actually keep me awake when I was growing up while trying to work through all the permutations. All this leading to the fact that though this film doesn’t really have a spark of originality or even creativity I suppose I still enjoyed it on that kid level of thinking what would happen if someone ever goes back and changes something so that I don’t exist any longer. And what would happen to this blog! Would it too cease to exist or is the Internet immutable to such things?

It’s 2003 and the Japanese army is experimenting with plasma pulses from the sun and other such gobbly-gook babble that I should have spent more time in physics class to comprehend I guess. At any rate an entire army unit under Colonel Matoba including tanks and helicopters are sent back to 1549. This is a crucial period in Japanese history in which various warlords were fighting for the supremacy of Japan. Nobunaga Oda would eventually succeed and unite Japan under the Tokugawa Shogunate. Once the unit disappears the authorities have no idea where they went until 72 hours later the effect is reversed and a wounded Samurai solider shows up in the present. They realize than that they can go into the past and possibly retrieve the lost unit. This becomes imperative when some cosmic force is slowly causing the present to catastrophically change and this can only be explained by the fact that the past was changed in some dramatic manner. Either that or global warming. So into the past they must go.

The army recruits an ex-lieutenant named Kashima (Yosuke Eguchi) who is now happily running a restaurant and not at all thrilled to go until the Samurai shows up on his doorstep and calls him chicken. Those are fighting words and so he joins the heavily armed force along with the female Lieutenant Kanzaki (Kyoka Suzuki). His value is his friendship with Matoba and he is to be strictly an observer but you can guess by his rugged good looks that he will do much more than observe by the time this story winds down. Their mission therefore is to go into the past and bring back the unit and patch up history as best they can – and they have only 72 hours to do it.

They are immediately attacked by a well organized samurai force and many of them are slain and the remainder captured and brought to none other than Nobunaga. One small problem though - the real Nobunaga was killed and the man standing in for him is none other than Colonel Matoba who decided that why shouldn’t he rule Japan and with a tank, helicopter and machine guns that wasn’t difficult. Most of us would probably do the same thing. He explains to his old friends that not only does he want to rule Japan but he wants to change the future so that Japan will not be defeated in WWII and made into a servile nation. How – well by blowing up Mt. Fuji and making the plain into a desert – and how to do this – with a makeshift nuclear bomb of course. The logic of all this rather escaped me, but I still liked seeing the samurai’s going up against modern armaments. That was kind of cool in a 14-year old boy kind of way and there is still some of that in many of us.

My rating for this film: 6.0