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Laramie Movie Scope:

A soldier who tries to be all he can be

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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October 24, 1998 -- "Soldier" is a movie similar to "Robocop" in some ways. It's about people who have been made into robot-like creatures who blindly follow orders and the struggle of one of them to regain his humanity.

Unlike "Robocop," however, "Soldier," lacks the satire, humor, vulgarity and gore of the former movie.

Kurt Russell ("Escape from L.A.") stars as Todd, a man who has been a soldier for 40 years. Selected at birth, he and his fellow soldiers are brainwashed into total obedience. They are also programmed to be ruthless and to feel no pain. They fight an endless series of wars on various planets in a bleak future.

One day Todd and his fellow soldiers are replaced by a new breed of soldier, genetically engineered to be superior fighters. Todd is defeated in a demonstration battle by one of the super-soldiers and is cast away on a garbage planet.

Todd is befriended by a peaceful group of castaways that live on the garbage planet, recycling what they can from the castoffs of civilization. Eventually, however, he is rejected by them as being too dangerous when he displays symptoms of delayed stress syndrome.

Todd is welcomed back, however, when the super soldiers land and begin killing people as part of a war exercise. His combat skill becomes the only hope for the colony's survival. It is pretty obvious where this is going.

Kurt Russell uses a minimalist acting style here that is extreme. He only utters about half a dozen words of dialogue in the whole movie, and his face never changes expression. He does manage to convey, however, a sense of humanity bubbling up from the depths of his repressed psyche.

A very subtle relationship develops between Todd and Sandra (Connie Nielsen of "The Devil's Advocate") her son and husband, Mace, (Sean Pertwee of "Shopping") who take care of him on the garbage planet. Todd's attraction to Sandra is suggested mainly through glances and camera shots. Todd only shows his feelings briefly in the middle of the film and at the end.

Paul Anderson, the director of the film, notes that this is really just a western in the guise of science fiction. Like "Shane," the stranger comes to this western town, is treated as an outsider, but ends up heroically fighting the bad guys. It is also about the loss of humanity in an increasingly technological society, and the struggle that some veterans face when they try to readjust to civilian life. It resonates on more levels than just a simple action film.

The set design, by David L. Snyder ("Bladerunner") is stunning. He's turned a junk yard into a battlefield and a community. Some of the junk, however, like a battleship, parking meters and old airplanes are extremely anachronistic. They don't belong in this futuristic setting. The weapons are also anachronistic. In the future, one would think weapons manufacturers would have advanced beyond machine guns and chemical bombs. The whole idea of a garbage planet also makes no economic sense. It would be far cheaper to recycle. I would have also liked to have heard more dialogue from Russell. Aside from that, however, it isn't a bad movie as long as you view it as myth. It rates a C+.

Click here for links to places to buy this movie in video and/or DVD format, the soundtrack, books, even used videos, games and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 1998 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)