Scifi
Soldier
.
Dir: Paul Anderson
Star: Kurt Russell, Jason Scott Lee, Sean Pertwee, Connie Nielsen, Jason Issacs
Cert / Year: 18 - R / 1998
Format: DVD R2
'

Adam Project 1996, a number of babies are selected at birth by the military to be trained as soldiers. Exposed to violence, and tested both physically and mentally the children are forced to learn the military arts. The weak are killed, the strong become the perfect soldiers. Over forty years latter, in-between wars, a new generation of soldiers are unveiled. These have been genetically manufactured to be fitter, faster, and more deadly. The old soldiers including their NCO Sergeant Todd (Kurt Russell) are obsolete. Defeated in training by the new soldiers and left for dead Todd's body is discarded on a desolate garbage planet. Surviving, and helped by some abandoned civilians Todd must fight one last war. A war against the very soldiers that replaced him.

Remember this film at the cinema, no neither do I. Why? Lets consider it. There is no doubt that the story is original. The nearest equivalent I can think of is the old toy, new toy theme of Toy Story, but this is hardly an accurate comparison. The film is both interesting and action packed. The first part of the film deals with Todd's acceptance by the civilians, while the second is one giant battle the likes of which Rambo would have been proud of.

The character of Todd is fascinating, bought up to be more machine than man, he is a weapon. This leads to tension and genuine fear from the civilians, and pity by the audience for what has been done to him to make him this way. Kurt Russell shows brilliant skill as you watch Todd as he tries to experience life for the first time outside of the military. This is all round is one of his best performances for a long time. It's not as if he is given much in the script, there is very little dialogue (it's just not that necessary) and Kurt Russell's character is almost silent. He has to act just by delivering a look.

He is aided in this by some top range direction from Paul Anderson. This young director has impressed me in the few films he has directed. His choice of visual composition is nearly always spot on, and he proves it here by using an almost comic book style to tell a story without words. Flashbacks are used to fill in the back plot but unlike Highlander Endgame Great they are kept brief and seamlessly integrated with the main story (there is one exception, but hey anyone can make a mistake). Where his direction truly excels is during the battle scenes. These are outstanding.

What would the battles be without hardware. Spaceships, giant tanks, big guns, as Ash would say "Groovy". The special effects are very special thanks to Clay Pinney and his team. The spaceships are convincing and the space shots are top class, but it is the military hardware which steals the show. Flame-throwers, machine guns, rocket launchers, and mini guns are just what need for a Doom like frag fest. But wait, best of all are the giant armoured vehicles (based on real life giant earth movers) their size alone makes them uniquely awesome. All of this is shot in some fantastic locations and sets representing the garbage planet.

Apart from Kurt who else gets to play with the toys. Well every soldier needs an enemy and Jason Scott Lee is impressive as Caine 607, Todd's replacement. Jason Issacs is thoroughly nasty as Colonel Mekum, and Gary Busey is reliable as ever as Captain Church. Sean Pertwee (yes Dr Who's son) makes another appearance in a Paul Anderson film, and is good if not a little under used. Connie Nielsen, who admittedly I am not a big fan of, this time much more likeable (maybe it is the blond hair). But the biggest surprise is young Jared Thorne who plays a child role that does not get in the way, maybe its because he has no dialogue.

Faults, yes there are some. For a start there are lapses in reason, and occasionally suspension of disbelief is pushed a little far. Characters tend to appear and disappear at a whim (especially later in the movie), and Sean Pertwee's character Mace dumped out of the film in an unsatisfying hurry. Todd, on more that one occasion, does seem a little too indestructible, and this pushes the limits of believability (he can fall hundreds of feet out of a spaceship onto a scrap heap and walk away!). Other than this the plot and mainly the battles are never a big as you may hope. The scale is rather small when compared to the bug attacks in Starship Troopers, and they really could have done with more bad guys.

So back to the original question why did it fail in the cinema. The answer is I don't know, maybe it wasn't big enough. It's certainly not Blade Runner or The Matrix, but it is a cracking action packed sci-fi movie. In times of no brain (no plot) effect based summer blockbusters like Independence Day it does not fit (it's both smaller and better). So maybe it's not what cinema audiences expected, but like much of Kurt Russell's work I think that the true audience for this film is behind the small screen. Another video rental classic, and definite future cult movie classic.

Tagline

Left for dead on a remote planet for obsolete machines and people, a fallen hero has one last battle to fight.

Quote

Mace: Show us civilians how to use weapons and we will fight.
Sgt. Todd: Soldiers deserve soldiers, Sir.
Mace: But one man against seventeen what are you going to do?
Sgt. Todd: I'm going to kill them all Sir."

Rating: 4 out of 5

DVD
Picture 2.35:1 or 4:3 Perfect picture.
Audio Dolby Digital 5.1 Powerful and is a well used.
Features None
Verdict Picture and sound are great, but that's it. No extras are a daming inditment of how the studio had no faith in this film.

Rating: 1 out of 5

Reviewed by Glitz Back Top Home