Soldier is a 1998 American science fiction action film directed by Paul Anderson, written by David Webb Peoples, and starring Kurt Russell , Jason Scott Lee, Jason Isaacs, Connie Nielsen and Sean Pertwee. The film was released in the United States on October 23, 1998.
In 1996, as part of a new military training program ("Project Adam"), a group of infants are selected at birth and raised as soldiers. Undergoing extreme mental and physical training, they become virtual sociopaths, extremely disciplined, but with no understanding of anything except military routine and war. The soldiers are conditioned to never speak unless spoken to, to completely ignore physical pain, and to address whomever they are speaking to (women included) as "sir".
At the age of 49, Sgt. Todd 3465 (Kurt Russell) is a hardened veteran of many battles, but his unit is about to be replaced. Colonel Mekum (Jason Isaacs) introduces a new group of genetically engineered soldiers, designed with superior physical attributes and a complete lack of emotion, except aggression.
Todd's unit's commander, Captain Church (Gary Busey) insists on testing the "new" soldiers' abilities against his own. But Todd, the unit's best soldier, is no match for Caine 607 (Jason Scott Lee). In the final trial, a fight between Caine and three "old" soldiers, two of Todd's comrades are killed, though Todd manages to gouge out one of Caine's eyes before he is defeated. Todd seemingly dies when he falls from a great height; but the body of a dead soldier cushions his fall, and he is simply knocked unconscious. Mekum orders their bodies dumped like garbage, and the remaining "old" soldiers are demoted to menial support roles. Meanwhile Caine gets an artificial blue eye to replace the brown eye he lost.
Todd and his dead comrades are dumped on the surface of Arcadia 234, a waste disposal planet with dangerously high winds. Though badly injured, Todd limps toward a colony of humans who crash-landed there twelve years earlier, and have managed to survive and build a society from the planet's mountains of trash.
Though they try to make him welcome, Todd has difficulty adapting to the community due to his extreme conditioning and their conflict-free lives. Todd's training, and subsequently stunted social skills, make it difficult for him to answer in anything more than curt replies. Many of the settlers are afraid of him, but he is accepted and sheltered by Mace (Sean Pertwee) and his wife Sandra (Connie Nielsen). Todd develops a silent rapport with their mute son, Nathan (Jared and Taylor Throne), who had been traumatized by a snakebite earlier in his life. In a later conflict with a coiled snake, Todd teaches Nathan how to face it down and strike back to protect himself. His parents misinterpret the lesson, unsure of how to deal with Todd.
However, Todd soon begins to experience flashbacks from his time as a soldier and mistakes one of the colonists (Michael Chiklis) for an enemy, nearly killing him. The colonists decide that Todd is too dangerous to live among them, so they give him supplies and democratically vote him out of the colony. Outside the colony, he sheds tears, but appears confused, implying that this is the first time in his life that he has ever cried.
A short time later, Mace and Sandra are almost bitten by another snake while sleeping, but are saved by Nathan, who used Todd's technique. Mace then realizes that Todd taught their son how to protect his parents from the snakes. He also realizes that Todd has an important role to play in their community, and decides to search for the soldier on his own and bring him back. The colonists object, saying that they had voted him out democratically, but Mace insists that "We voted wrong."
The new genetically engineered soldiers arrive on the garbage planet for a training exercise. Since the world is listed as uninhabited, Colonel Mekum decides that the colonists' presence is unlawful and, for practice, orders his troops to slaughter them. Frightened children hide underground and hope not to be seen. Mace is spotted by the troops and killed just after he finds Todd. Though outmanned and outgunned, Todd's years of battle experience and superior knowledge of the planet allow him to return to the colony and kill the advance squad.
Nervous that an unknown enemy force may be confronting them, Colonel Mekum orders the soldiers to withdraw and return with heavy artillery. Using guerilla tactics, Todd outmaneuvers and defeats all of the remaining soldiers, including Caine 607, who is defeated in hand-to-hand combat.
Panicking, Mekum orders the transport ship's crew, composed of Todd's old squad, to set up and activate a portable nuclear device powerful enough to destroy the planet, then orders the ship to lift off, leaving the squad behind. When Captain Church objects, Mekum shoots him in cold blood. Before they can take off as planned, Todd appears, and his old comrades recognize him as the ranking officer due to their conditioning and silently side with him over the army that has discarded them. Todd and his comrades take over the ship, leaving Mekum and his aides on the planet, then evacuate the remaining colonists just before the bomb detonates. Mekum wets his pants as he realizes he is helpless.
Todd orders the ship to set course for the Trinity Moons, the colonists' original destination, then picks up Nathan and points to their new destination, while looking out upon the galaxy.
- Kurt Russell as Sgt. Todd 3465
- Jason Scott Lee as Caine 607
- Jason Isaacs as Col. Mekum
- Connie Nielsen as Sandra
- Sean Pertwee as Mace
- Jared & Taylor Thorne as Nathan
- Mark Bringleson as Lt. Rubrick
- Gary Busey as Capt. Church
- K. K. Dodds as Lt. Sloan
- James R. Black as Riley
- Corbin Bleu as Johnny
- Mark De Alessandro as Goines
- Vladimir Orlov as Romero
- Carsten Norgaard as Green
- Duffy Gaver as Chelsey
- Brenda Wehle as Hawkins
- Michael Chiklis as Jimmy Pig
- Elizabeth Dennehy as Jimmy Pig's wife
- Paul Dillon as Slade
- Max Daniels as Red
Soldier was written by David Webb Peoples, who co-wrote the script for Blade Runner. By his own admission, he considers Soldier to be a "sidequel"/spiritual successor to Blade Runner. It also obliquely references various elements of stories written by Philip K. Dick (who wrote the novel "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?", on which Blade Runner is based), or film adaptations thereof. A "Spinner" vehicle from Blade Runner can be seen in the wreckage on a junk planet that features in the film.
There are also several dialogue references to events such as "Tannhauser Gate" from Blade Runner.
The script was 15 years old at the time of production.
Kurt Russell broke his ankle during the first week of shooting, so the entire production needed to be rescheduled. The film makers first shot scenes involving Russell lying down, followed by scenes of Russell sitting, Russell standing but not moving, and so on.
Music by Joel McNeely
Cinematography by David Tattersall
Editing by Martin Hunter
Studio: Morgan Creek Productions, Jerry Weintraub Productions
Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures
Soldier was a box-office flop. Shot with a budget of $60 million, it performed poorly during its theatrical run, earning only $14,594,226 domestically.
The film received mostly negative reviews upon its release, currently holding a 10% approval rating at Rotten Tomatoes based on 51 reviews. It was mainly criticized for its lack of character development and predictable script, but praised for its action scenes. Bruce Westbrook of the Houston Chronicle commented that "the action is handled fairly well, but it's routine, and there's no satisfaction in seeing Todd waste men who are no more bloodthirsty than he is." Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly criticized the film's overuse of genre clichés, saying "any cliché you can dream up for a futuristic action movie, any familiar big-budget epic you can think to rip off, Soldier has gotten there first." Michael Wilmington of the Chicago Tribune described the film as "a big, clanging, brutal actioner in which we search the murk in vain for the sparks of humanity the moviemakers keep promising us."
Not all reviews were negative. Lisa Alspector of the Chicago Reader found the film to be enjoyable, calling Russell's performance "persuasive" and saying "this appealing formulaic action adventure displays a lot of conviction in its not-too-flashy action scenes and a little levity in the gradual socialization of Russell's character." Similarly, Kevin Thomas of the Los Angeles Times gave the film a rating of 3.5 out of 5 and called it "a potent comic-book-style action-adventure."
DVD was released in Region 1 in the United States on March 2, 1999, and Region 2 in the United Kingdom on 2 August 1999, it was distributed by Warner Home Video. It was released as a double-sided disc, which included the widescreen version on one side, with full-screen on the other. Included on the disc was a film commentary. Soldier was released on Blu-ray for the first time in the U.S. on July 26, 2011.
- "Soldier". British Film Institute. London. Retrieved November 10, 2012.
- Erlewine, Iotis. "Soldier (1998)". Allmovie. Retrieved November 10, 2012.
- "Soldier (1998)". filmsite. Retrieved 30 January 2012.
- Cinescape, September/October 1998 issue
- "Ain't It Cool News: The best in movie, TV, DVD, and comic book news". Aintitcool.com. 1998-08-17. Retrieved 2011-12-07.
- Source: DVD director's commentary.
- Soldier Rotten Tomatoes profile
- Soldier (1998) reviews | Rotten Tomatoes
- Soldier Review, EW.com
- Soldier (1998) | Top Critic Reviews
- Soldier | Chicago Reader
- "News: Soldier (US - BD)". DVDActive. Retrieved 2011-12-07.