on June 17, 2001
Soldier is a rare experience that is far more than the plot, which has been outlined by the editorial comments. This is a journey taken by a strong warrior into his own humanity. I cannot even count the number of times that I have watched this movie, but I know it is more than twenty. I see more each time.
Kurt Russell's extraordinary and powerful acting skills make Sergeant Todd real. Successfully creating a character without dialogue is an art -- and he mastered it. This movie provides insight into today's violent world as well.
Todd has known nothing but war or training since he was born. He was conscripted in the hospital; he never knew love, or laughter, or how to play. He obeyed orders and did not speak unless spoken to. The perfect soldier could not have emotions. If the only way to kill an enemy was to kill innocent victims, then he did what was required.
Todd is the best soldier of the "old timers," and he has been bested a new, genetically engineered soldier. One of the most poignant scenes is on the world where he was dumped for dead. The survivors that created a life on Arcadia are nervous to have a soldier in their midst, and ask Todd why he is there alone. He stands, no expression on his faces, and says, "I was replaced by a better soldier, Sir."
Although he acknowledges that he is no longer good enough to be a soldier, as his body heals he works to grow stronger and returns to the training rituals that have ruled his entire life. As he sees the interaction in the group that saved him, he is conflicted by emotions that he never experienced. When asked what he thought about, he says, "Fear. Fear and training."
It is extremely painful for him to be exiled from these people because he is too strong, and his violent training is too dangerous. He does not understand what he feels. This is my favorite scene. He is alone in his exile, sitting in a concrete drainpipe with tears running down his face. He wipes the tears away, and with the skill of a great actor, Russell shows that he does not even know what they are.
The arrogant commander of the new soldiers considers Arcadia the perfect first "war." Anyone on the planet was considered hostile. Three soldiers attacked the small group, killing without provocation. They have no hope until Todd returns and saves the group. When he is asked what he would do, he says, "Kill them all, Sir." He will not let the group help him because "A soldier deserves a soldier."
Good writing means that the hero must have an enemy equal to his abilities, and this has great writing. In facing the final soldier, Todd's intelligence wins the battle.
I am passionate about this movie. The acting, plot, special effects, and depth earn five stars.
on April 15, 2003
This is one of the great, unsung science fiction films of recent times. The story revolves around a future where soldiers are segregated and trained from the crib to be merciless, killing machines. Kurt Russel, in a great performance, plays one of these soldiers who are soon to be replaced by a genetically enhanced new breed of soldier. Sgt. Todd 3465 (Russel) is believed killed in a training exercise and disposed of like yesterday's garbage on a waste-disposal planet. He survives, finds refuge amongst a colony of planet refugees, and tries to fit in.
This is, on a very rewarding level, a tremendous action film. Russel's nemesis in the film, Sgt. Caine 607 (played by Jason Scott Lee) is an imposing presence, and the fight scenes between the two are excellent and convincing. The special effects and battle scenes are impressive as well, and really transport you to a harsh, bleak, metallic future.
On another level the film is about the discovery of emotion in the highly trained soldier as he tries to fit into a more normal society. Russel is simply outstanding in the roll, doing an incredible acting job. He speaks a total of about 20 words in the whole film, but his internal struggles are always clear and very moving.
This "learning human emotions" trick is one several science fiction films have attempted, and most are embarrassing and painful to watch, dripping with sugar and sap. "Soldier" excels in this department as Russel makes the shift from killing machine to feeling man in a subtle, believable way. The film is just very, very well done and well written. The acting is fine all the way around, and the dialogue is completely absent of those wince-producing moments films of this nature often have.
Over time, this has become one of my favorite movies. I have watched it several times with increased enjoyment each time. I have quoted dialogue from this movie on more than one occasion, particularly the moment when Sgt. Todd tries to express his feelings, and all he can verbalize is "fear . . . discipline."
This movie is carefully crafted, intelligent, and hugely entertaining from the opening credits onward.
on May 28, 2000
Here's another movie that was marketed to the wrong audience and therefore died at the box office.I found Soldier to be a profound meditation on violence and beauty. Kurt Russell delivers yet another exemplary-but-unacclaimed performance. His Sgt. Todd is an Everyman who does his duty, no questions, and is tossed out with the rest of the garbage when the next new thing comes along.From that point, Russell's facial expressions combine with the sensuous camerawork of the cinematographer to provoke the questions: Do I deserve love, beauty, and community? and: When, if ever, is violence necessary?This is a flick I'd recommend to the content guardians who are knee-jerk haters of violence. Soldier uses violence appropriately, intelligently. It is a film for grown-ups. Then again, censors rarely get that point.Bottom line: When you watch this film, you have to watch everything that is going on. It's not just another action flick.
on July 9, 1999
It's a 10. Superb acting by Kurt Russell; directed by Paul Anderson, genius behind _Blade Runner_. He captured the essence of dictatorship and its opposite: individualism. Initially the protagonist, Todd, follows orders, used as a means to the ends of the State, a fighting machine who's then discarded. But Todd survives being dumped on a heap of refuse on a desert planet, to make his way to a small settlement of free people. There he learns what it means to have selfish values and to love a woman. When the totalitarians return to threaten her, only Todd can destroy them. Fight scenes and interpersonal dynamics were masterfully done. This is not a simplistic action movie with bullets flying everywhere. This is action melded with intellectual strategy, melded with a deep philosophical message. A sci fi classic, right along with Blade Runner.
Written as sort of a sequel to Blade Runner (it takes place within the same universe) by David Peeples (Unforgiven, Blade Runner), Soldier is a rarity now days; it's a B-Movie masquerading as an A movie. I said it was a rarity because it also doesn't have any pretentions to be anything but that. Kurt Russell plays a man born and bred to be a ruthless, brutal soldier. When he's injured, he's discarded like yesterday's news on a planet where much of Earth's waste is dumped. When the latest genetically enhanced soldiers arrive to dispose of the inhabitants of the planet, Russell's character is pushed into action; he's discovered the barest hints of humanity and compassion that was always denied him before. He's taken to these underdogs and they to him almost as a family.
In many respects the plot for Solider could have been lifted from a Clint Eastwood Western. Here's The Man With No Name suddenly discovering an emotional core he never knew he had. He helps the less fortunate not because of pity but because he realizes he finally belongs. Russell's performance is masterful. While the Russell doesn't have much dialog, he manages to convey what makes the character tick with minimum discussion. Russell uses body language to communicate as much as the dialog. In many respects, he's a variation on the character of Rick Deckard from Blade Runner. He's a man of action that ceases to exist between assignments. This cypher like character suddenly discovers he is more than his past and his actions. In the process he rediscovers his own humanity. Soldier makes a complimentary piece to the Mad Max series.
The film uses the action and science fiction genre for a springboard to examine a lot of different themes and issues but, make no mistake, it is still an ACTION film. The stunts are well choregraphed and the visual effects effective but it isn't drenched in the CGI we've come to expect movies of this type to have.
The DVD transfer is very good as is the audio quality. The extras includes commentary by director Paul W. S. Anderson (Event Horizon, Resident Evil), a theatrical trailer, production notes and both the wide and full screen editions of the movie. My only complaint is the fact that writer David Peeples isn't given any room for a commentary track. Since he's truly the author of the film (and it was intended as a sequel of sorts or companion piece to Blade Runner), it would have been very interesting to get his take on the finished product.
Solider isn't Citizen Kane nor does it pretend to be; it's like many of the classic B-Movies of the 50's to the 80's (most notably The Terminator)in that there's far more than meets the eye going on here.
on July 11, 2014
THE STORY: In the future, humans are genetically bred for the specific purpose of being living weapons - the ultimate fighting machines. Their success rate is impressive. However, when a new & improved generation of test tube soldier is developed a couple of decades later, the current versions suddenly find themselves decidedly obsolete. The brutal conditioning & rigorous military training which made them so successful as combat soldiers has also rendered them cold, emotionless, potentially lethal living weapons. They are deemed unsuitable for re-integration into mainstream society. So what do you do with these "people" when their time has come & gone? The government's answer: retire them. Permanently. However, one of these soldiers, (Kurt Russell), survives his 'retirement' (shot point blank & dumped onto a distant world that's literally a gigantic, planet-wide landfill). As we soon discover however, the trash world is NOT barren. Years ago, a small transport ship developed engine trouble and crashed there. The ship itself was damaged beyond repair, leaving crew & passengers with no way to escape ...or even signal for help. Thus, the survivors were forced to make the garbage planet their home. They adapted over time, learning to live off the leftover refuse of others. When Russell's soldier is unceremoniously dumped into their midst, he attempts to co-exist with them, unlearn much of what he was conditioned from birth to do and, ultimately, unravel the mystery of exactly what it is to be "regular" human being. But when the government learns that he survived and they return to "clean up" their oversight, the SOLDIER must take up arms once again and defend his newly adopted world & its inhabitants.
THOUGHTS: On the surface this is sort of an intergalactic, future-tech version of SHANE. That genre-defining western is an iconic film in its own right, and its story is elegant simplicity itself. Not coincidentally, SHANE's plot was also the blueprint for what was arguably the best of the original "Mad Max" films, and one of the best action films ever, 1982's THE ROAD WARRIOR. It's a real shame that there wasn't better recognition for SOLDIER when it came out. I recall renting it on VHS tape many years ago and I enjoyed it but somehow forgot about it. Not too long ago, while scanning Amazon's list of available sci-fi titles on Blu-ray, I saw SOLDIER on that list. I'd forgotten much of the plot but knew it had a ton of action and remembered it being a pretty good flick. Besides, it's got Kurt "Snake Plissken" Russel in the lead, so how can you go wrong? (Errr... Captain Ron not withstanding. LOL.) My wife & I watched it last night and we both REALLY liked it. The movie is tailor-made for the likes of Schwarzenegger, Stallone or Van Damme, so I was originally surprised to see Kurt Russell in this kind of role, but he certainly nailed it. Man, he is a BEAST here! He must have done some crazy-intense training to get into such impressive physical shape. He was the physical equal of any other action star of that era, but unlike those other guys Russell had decades of acting experience under his belt. He effectively pulled off a very complex role with almost no dialogue; using facial expressions & body language to convey emotion. I doubt any of those other action heroes would have been anywhere near as good, but Kurt was perfect. There's a scene that takes place shortly after he's been cast out by the trash-picker community, (they are fearful of the threat he represents), which crystallizes why Russell is such an excellent but criminally under-rated actor. He's hunkered down in a filthy drain pipe that's now his temporary home when his eyes well up and a single tear runs down his face. He wipes it off with his finger and stares at it with a confused, uncomprehending look on his usually stoic face. He haltingly attempts to process what has just happened, with no clue as to what this water from his eye is nor how it got there. A subtle yet brilliant insight into the mind of this soldier - and a clue that he is, every so slowly, transitioning into something more than just an unfeeling killing machine. There's some fairly deep thinking going on under the movie's surface if you take the time to look, yet the quiet, insightful moments are perfectly balanced by some gut-wrenching, bone-crunching action sequences and "whoa!" visual F/X shots. SOLDIER truly has the best of both worlds. The action scenes are blisteringly intense and the technical aspects of the film are equally inspiring as well. The cinematography is gorgeous to look at, with some really beautifully shot scenes featuring Kurt bathed in sharp light & shadow. And a special shout-out to the intricate, over-the-top set designs on the trash planet. The level of detail is amazing. The way-cool, full-scale/practical massive military "Crawler" vehicles look like real tech, and represent a believable menace to the film's protagonists. Lastly, from a visual F/X standpoint SOLDIER still impresses, with no glaringly bad or outdated-looking CGI shots to belie the film's true age.
THE BLU-RAY: The Blu-ray presentation for SOLDIER sports a good, clean transfer - especially considering that it's a 15+ year-old film which has had no restoration work done to it. Unfortunately, the audio portion of the film isn't quite so hot. The sound mix is very inconsistent on this Blu-ray, forcing me to keep turning the volume up for the dialogue and then dialing it back down to keep my eardrums from being blown out during the action/combat sequences, but other than that I have no complaints. Bottom line: If you've never seen this film before, do yourself a favor and rent, download or buy it. It's well worth your time & money. It's got brains to go with the brawn, and Kurt Russell delivers in what was probably his most physically demanding role since "Escape From New York." 5 STARS for this action-packed yet introspective sci-fi flick.
on March 10, 1999
I have always liked Kurt Russell's movies, and Soldier is no exception. A lot has been said about the amount of lines he has in the film, but it is an action movie. Actions speak louder than words in this film. That's what makes it cool, and Russell shines in this movie.
The DVD is pretty good, the color is great as is the sound. The director's commentary by Paul Anderson is pretty good because his movies are really cool. He also is joined in the commentary by actor Jason Issacs (who played Mekum) and producer Jeremy Bolt. It also has a trailer for the film.
Some people over-analyze a film, when you do, you lose track of the fact that it is just a film, and take how bad things are too seriously.
Soldier may have gotten bad reviews, but I enjoyed it in the theatres and on my DVD player.
I hope you will like this DVD too.
on January 8, 2005
I cant imagine why anyone wouldnt like this movie. I recently discovered it didnt do well in the box ofice. that was a surprise to me, I've liked this movie since the first time i saw it on TV and I think with creativity a sequal could be made. If you agree say this review was helpful to you.
on June 8, 2013
I love this flick. Very good action in space movie. I had to buy the Blu Ray version too. Kurt Russell does a great job again beyond the script he was handed. A standard but well done story, with good effects for a B type movie, and some great action and fight scenes. Once again Russell creates a memorable tough guy persona and communicates much while speaking little. Not an easy thing to do. Few actors have ever done that well, and Kurt is quite commendable.
This is also not done in that dreary, boring, too dark, monotone look so many movies of this genre are filmed like nowadays. No wannabe video game look please.
Jason Scott Lee also puts on a solid performance as the manufactured human archenemy along with some others you will recognize.
I also like the human spiritual and philosophical side as well. Russell is trained from birth to be less than human, a thoughtless, merciless, coldblooded killer by those that think they are better, smarter, superior types who think they can do what they want to get what they want.
In the end Kurt and the lowly outcasts demonstrate it's not just your upbringing, or what you have or your station in life that makes you special or great, it's what's inside that counts. A good moral, if not always true in reality. But this is fiction after all.
Might I also add, a sequel would be cool too!
on May 30, 2015
Kurt Russell plays an engineered soldier who was born into and raised into military service. Years and years of training and wars on various planets and galaxies under his belt but now told he's obsolete.
Dumped and left for dead he survives with help from refugee families.
War has been declared but now he's taking it to them.
Trained to win by attrition at any cost he takes the fight back to the ones who called he obsolete.
A fantastic and believable performance by Russell. You are brought face to face with how hard fitting back in can be.
Well worth the watching.