Soldier (1997) Movie Review

Soldier is not a deep movie. It’s a sometimes too-violent film, but it’s never boring. At least, I never found it to be boring. The plot is a simple one: old supersoldier Todd and his group of supersoldiers, trained since birth to be killing machines, are replaced by another group of supersoldiers led by Cain who are not trained, but genetically-engineered to be killing machines. In a contest between the old and the new, Todd is injured and considered killed, because fixing an obsolete soldier is not worthwhile. He’s thrown out along with the old garbage and ends up on a garbage dumper, a spaceship that hauls garbage, and unceremoniously dumped on a garbage planet.

Soldier stars a pumped-up Kurt Russell as Todd, the killing machine who begins to ponder his own existence when his primary reason for being is ripped away. When Todd lands on the garbage planet, he finds a group of shipwrecked colonists who have been scratching a livelihood from the planet’s garbage, literally turning a part of the landfill into a colony. Todd is clearly not welcomed, but because he’s hurt , the colonists grudgingly takes him in. Thus begins Todd’s healing process and his struggle to leave behind his soldiering ways and try to actually live life as a human being for the first time in his life. It’s a hard road for Todd, since he’s 40 years old and he’s never known anything besides killing.

I consider this to be one of Russell’s best works. Todd is an inhuman machine in the guise of a man, and Russell plays it perfectly. In fact, throughout the whole movie, Russell barely speaks, and lets his eyes and grizzled, tattooed face do the acting. He lets the audience know what he’s thinking, his confusion and his inability to communicate, all while barely saying a word.

Connie Nielsen is Sandra, the wife of Mace (Sean Pertwee), the man who takes Todd into his home while he heals. Through Sandra, Todd begins to discover the human side of himself, long dormant and unexplored, but unfortunately she’s another man’s wife, and it isn’t long before Todd loses favor with the colonists through no fault of his own. He’s kicked out, abandoned once again, but this time Todd feels it. Having begun to learn to cherish life, being unceremoniously abandoned a second time hits him like a ton of bricks.

And that’s when Act Three rolls around, and the movie falls apart. It could have been an excellent movie, with the only conflicts being Todd and his own inner demons and his coping with life as a man at age 40. It would be an internal, contemplative movie with a sci-fi backdrop. Admittedly this wouldn’t get the kids into the theaters, but in its current form, Soldier didn’t get the kids into the theater anyway.

Instead, the filmmakers inject a showdown with the genetically-engineered supersoldiers who had made Todd obsolete. The showdown is bloody and very violent, and doesn’t serve the film very well. Take out the entire Act Three and focus instead on Todd’s struggles to regain his humanity and shed the killing machine mentality, and Soldier would be a terrific film. As it stands, Soldier is only slightly above average, and that’s if you like this sort of genre.

Director Paul Anderson (Event Horizon) does a competent job, although there’s nothing really outstanding to point out. You could describe the direction as workmanlike. The film looks good, is obviously the slick product of a big Hollywood budget.

The writing is dead on until Act Three, when the movie de-evolves into a bloody shoot-out that really has no reason for being in the first place. Russell, as mentioned, is terrific and embodies Todd from head to toe, bringing life to a character that shows, or knows, very little emotion. As Sandra, Connie Nielsen (Gladiator) does a good job showing Sandra as a loving wife who starts to feel something approaching a motherly love towards the child-like Todd. The rest of the cast is competent, but nothing of merit.

Paul Anderson (director) / David Webb Peoples (screenplay)
CAST: Kurt Russell …. Sergeant Todd
Jason Scott Lee …. Caine 607
Jason Isaacs …. Colonel Mekum
Connie Nielsen …. Sandra
Sean Pertwee …. Mace

Buy Soldier on DVD