Soldier (1998 American film)

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Soldier (1998) poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byPaul W. S. Anderson[1]
Written byDavid Webb Peoples[1]
Produced byJerry Weintraub[1]
CinematographyDavid Tattersall[1]
Edited byMartin Hunter[1]
Music byJoel McNeely[1]
Distributed byWarner Bros.
Release date
  • October 23, 1998 (1998-10-23)
Running time
99 minutes
CountryUnited States[2][3]
Budget$60 million[4]
Box office$14.6 million[4]

Soldier is a 1998 American science fiction action film directed by Paul W. S. Anderson, written by David Webb Peoples, and starring Kurt Russell, Jason Scott Lee, Jason Isaacs, Connie Nielsen, Sean Pertwee and Gary Busey. The film tells the story of a highly skilled and emotionally distant soldier who is left for dead, befriends a group of refugees, then faces his former superiors who are determined to eliminate them.

The film was released worldwide on October 23, 1998. Upon its release, Soldier received generally negative reviews, although many praised the action sequences and Russell's performance. The film was a box-office bomb, grossing $14 million worldwide against a production budget of $60 million.


In 1996, as part of a new military training program, orphaned infants are selected at birth and raised as highly disciplined soldiers dedicated to a wholly military routine. They are trained to be ruthless obedient killers without any moral code of conduct, and any deemed physically or mentally unworthy are executed. Survivors of the training program are turned into emotionless, dedicated fighting machines with no exposure to or understanding of the outside world.

In 2036, at the age of 40, Sgt. Todd 3465 is a battle-hardened veteran and the best soldier of the original 1996 infants. Colonel Mekum, the leader of the original project, introduces a new group of genetically engineered soldiers, designed with superior physical attributes and a complete lack of emotion except unparalleled aggression.

Captain Church, the commander of Todd's unit, insists on testing the abilities of the new soldiers against those of his proven older ones. The new soldiers outperform the old soldiers in every way. In a combat exercise held at the top of climbing chains, a new soldier, Caine 607, easily defeats two of the original soldiers before Todd gouges out Caine's eye. Caine knocks Todd from the top of the chains; though he is presumed dead, the body of another dead soldier actually cushioned his fall and he is simply stunned and knocked unconscious. Mekum classifies it as a training exercise gone wrong and orders their bodies disposed of like garbage. Declared obsolete by Mekum, the remaining older soldiers are removed from combat duty and demoted to menial unarmed support roles.

Dumped on Arcadia 234, a waste disposal planet, an injured Todd limps toward a colony whose residents crash-landed there years earlier; as they were believed dead, no rescue missions have been attempted. Todd is found and sheltered by Mace, and he and his wife Sandra help nurse Todd back to health. Rarely speaking himself, Todd develops a silent rapport with their mute son, Nathan, who had been traumatized by a snakebite as an infant. He looks upon the happy, loving family with yearning in his eyes; having never considered sexuality before, he also has confusion concerning an attraction to Sandra. Though they try to make him feel welcome, Todd has difficulty adapting to the community and their conflict-free lives due to his extremely rigid conditioning. When Nathan silently looks to him for defense against a coiled snake, Todd attempts to show Nathan how to protect himself. Nathan's parents intervene and disapprove of the lesson, unsure of how to deal with the silent soldier. Todd's increasing disorientation by exposure to peaceful civilian life manifests into flashbacks of his time battling other enemy soldiers - and killing civilians who were in the way. With Todd's mind deep inside one of his more violent memories, when one of the colonists surprises Todd from behind, Todd nearly strangles him. Fearful, the colonists expel Todd from the community. Having been rejected by every society he has known - the military and the refugee civilians - Todd shows strong emotion for the first time; overcome by the loss, he quietly cries. A short time later, Mace and Sandra are almost bitten by a snake while they sleep, but Nathan uses Todd's defensive technique and saves them. Now understanding the value of Todd's lesson, Mace leaves to bring him back, regardless of the opposition of the colonists who fear him.

Mekum and the new soldiers arrive on the garbage planet to garner them combat experience and to perform a bi-annual security sweep. Since the world is legally listed as 'uninhabited', Mekum declares the colonists as 'hostiles', to be used as the targets, much to the disapproval of Captain Church. Just after Mace finds Todd and apologizes, the soldiers spot them and open fire. Todd survives but Mace dies from the attack. 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 guerrilla tactics, Todd outmaneuvers and kills all the remaining soldiers. Caine 607 is wounded and uses painkillers and performance enhancing stimulants to attack Todd in vicious hand-to-hand combat, but he is ultimately defeated by Todd's experience and clever tactics rather than mere physical prowess.

Todd confronts Mekum over the radio, declaring his new soldiers obsolete. Panicking, Mekum orders Todd's old squad to set up and activate a portable doomsday device powerful enough to destroy the planet before commanding the ship to lift off and leave the squad behind. When Captain Church objects to the abandonment of the old soldiers, Mekum shoots him in cold blood. Todd finds his old squad and they silently side with him, saluting Todd and choosing to obey him. The veteran soldiers easily then take over the ship. Mekum, who previously displayed objective disregard that bordered on cruelty, begs Todd for his life and urinates himself in abject fear. The veterans evacuate the remaining colonists and leave Mekum and his aides on the planet. In an attempt to disarm the explosive device, Mekum accidentally sets it off, killing himself and the aides. The ship escapes the shockwave and sets course for the Trinity Moons, the colonists' original destination. When Nathan enters the control room and reaches for Todd, he picks up Nathan and points to their new destination while looking out upon the galaxy.



Development and writing[edit]

The script was 15 years old at the time of production.[5]

Kurt Russell spoke only 104 words in the entire movie despite being in 85% of the scenes. During the first week of shooting he broke his left ankle, then the top of his right foot four days later, so the entire production needed to be rescheduled. The filmmakers first shot scenes involving Russell lying down, followed by scenes of Russell sitting, Russell standing but not moving, and so on.[5]


Home media[edit]

DVD was released in Region 1 in the United States on March 2, 1999, and Region 2 in the United Kingdom on August 2, 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.[6]


Box office[edit]

Soldier grossed $14.6 million in the United States.[4]

Critical response[edit]

The review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reported a 13% approval rating based on 53 reviews and an average rating of 3.78/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "A boring genre film and a waste of a good set."[7] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B+" on an A+ to F scale.[8]

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."[9] 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."[10] 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."[11] 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."[12] 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."[13]

Connection with Blade Runner franchise[edit]

Soldier was written by David Peoples, who co-wrote the script for the 1982 film Blade Runner. Soldier is considered to be a "spin-off sidequel"-spiritual successor to Blade Runner, seeing both films as existing in a shared fictional universe.[14] The film obliquely refers to various elements of stories written by Philip K. Dick (who wrote the 1968 novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, on which Blade Runner is based), or film adaptations thereof. A Spinner from Blade Runner can be seen in the wreckage on the junk planet in the film and Kurt Russell’s character is shown to have fought in the battles referenced in Roy Batty’s (Rutger Hauer) dying monologue: the Shoulder of Orion and Tannhäuser Gate.[15]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g "Soldier (1998)". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. Retrieved September 8, 2018.
  2. ^ "Soldier". British Film Institute. London. Archived from the original on February 10, 2009. Retrieved November 10, 2012.
  3. ^ Erlewine, Iotis. "Soldier (1998)". Allmovie. Retrieved November 10, 2012.
  4. ^ a b c "Soldier (1998)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved January 30, 2012.
  5. ^ a b Source: DVD director's commentary.
  6. ^ "News: Soldier (US - BD)". DVDActive. Retrieved December 7, 2011.
  7. ^ "Soldier (1998)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved December 29, 2017.
  8. ^ "CinemaScore". Retrieved November 6, 2017.
  9. ^ Westbrook, Bruce (October 23, 1998). "Soldier". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved October 18, 2016.
  10. ^ Soldier Review,
  11. ^ Wilmington, Michael (October 23, 1998). "Human Element In Short Supply As Style Drives 'Soldier'". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved October 18, 2016.
  12. ^ Soldier | Chicago Reader
  13. ^ Thomas, Kevin (October 23, 1998). "'Soldier' Takes No Prisoners". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 18, 2016.
  14. ^ Cinescape, September/October 1998 issue
  15. ^ "Ain't It Cool News: The best in movie, TV, DVD, and comic book news". August 17, 1998. Retrieved December 7, 2011.

External links[edit]