Heaven's Soldiers

Director: Min Joon-ki
Year: 2005
Production Company: Sidus FNH Corporation
Running Time: 104 minutes

If you can watch this film and leave any sense of realism on the doorstep, its actually rather fun as it takes the Korean separation, nukes and long past history all in one big nationalistic and melodramatic gulp. I have a real weakness for time travel films no matter what kind and this is as absurd as it gets. Even so, by the end its hard not to get into the spirit of the thing and be rooting for the Koreans against the dastardly barbarians. It begins though in the future before it goes into the past. North and South Korea have struck a détente and have even worked jointly on constructing a nuclear bomb one that the woman scientist (Kong Hyu-jin) proudly boasts is a stealth bomb which they could launch a preemptive attack on the USA! Not sure I like that idea very much and neither do the governments of the United States, China and Japan and they demand that it be handed over to be dismantled.

Korea decides reluctantly to comply, but not all are happy with this decision. A North Korean officer Kang Min-gil (Kim Seung-woo) feels Korea needs this so that it is never invaded again as in the past so he and a small group of his men steal the nuke along with the female scientist and run away with a force of South Koreans headed by Park Jeong-wu (Hwang Jung-min) in pursuit. But just as the fight breaks out a comet swings by overhead and sends them into the past some 433 years to be precise into the past and they find themselves smack in the middle of a barbarian invasion. Using a hand grenade they run the barbarians off but not before some are killed leaving six men left 3 from the south and three from the north and of course the female scientist you need at least one woman around to take a bath in the river.
The seven of them try and figure out how this happened and how to get back to the future but instead they run into a small time thief and smuggler who takes all of their arms and hides them. They discover to their astonishment that his name is Lee Soon-Shin (Park Joong-hoon) and the year is 1572 during the Josean Dynasty. Their astonishment is due to the fact that Lee Soon-Shin is Koreas most famous historical military leader and some twenty years later he was to defeat the Japanese in a major naval battle and save Korea from being colonized. But he has recently failed his military exam (a true fact) and just wants to live a solitary life so they take it upon themselves to make him the man he is supposed to be and also to keep him alive which isnt easy either especially as the barbarians are coming back in force to destroy a small village and Lee is determined to stop them with the help of these strange people. A Magnificent Seven/Seven Samurai motif soon comes into play.
It gets surprisingly well perhaps not for a Korean film violent and deadly as these men from the future become willing to lay down their lives for a man from the past and for the future (but their past) of Korea. You might say that is kind of silly because the past is already set just let the guy go about his business and history will take care of itself but their presence may already have accidentally altered history. It's not exactly brain food, but it did get me to read up on Lee and his life is actually quite an interesting one of many failures but eventually great success when he destroyed the Japanese navy with the first iron clad ship. He was to die of a bullet wound in 1598 at the battle of Noryang if only he had listened closer to one of the mens warnings! Full of nationalistic pride, the film delves deep into melodrama, sacrifice and heroics with little more than the shell of characters but its still rather entertaining and somewhat touching by the end.

My rating for this film: 6.5


Reviewed: 01/06

Previous films from Director:

This was his debut film.