Soldier, the replicants are back
– …you must feel something.
– Fear and discipline.
Pespite it has been a box office flop ($15 million for a $75 budget) and doesn’t usually get a favorable reception from many gender enthusiasts, this Blade Runner spiritual sequel has resulted a great discovery for my film library.
Directed by the always poorly deemed Paul W. S. Anderson, Soldier introduces a dystopian and dehumanized future of genetics experiments and colonized planets, where a civil life isn’t even a collateral damage and armies are formed by fighters who are selected at born time to become cruel and heartless people after a hard training in military complexes of aseptic look. A future where the soldiers themselves aren’t more than tools (expensive ones, tough) as the weapons they hold, where, literally, they are even thrown in the trash can when they become obsolete as mere technology just to be replaced by a more sophisticated “version”.
Broadly speaking, the script written by David Webb Peoples (co-screenwriter of the Blade Runner script) is simple, plain but effective and appropriate to the movie itself, maybe somehow manichee on showing a very marked good versus bad guys duality. You can’t expect great plot turns neither deep dialogues -rather quite the opposite, as the ones presented are brief and straight. In fact, far from what Blade Runner involves, this is more of an action film settled in a dystopic setting rather than a thoughtful science fiction (however, the discussed thematic, especially in some scenes, calls for the spectator deliberation).
Grim is the general tone of the story, in which shadows predominates even when there are some scarced bright moments, and the open ending of the tale isn’t but a reaffirmation of this fact, leaving behind it a marked bittersweet feeling that even so looks promising.
As well as the story itself, which in outline is about a desperate fight for survival, choreographies are wonderful and violence is at the required grade, showing bloody scenes as expected by the title itself; bad wounds and painful deaths are shown, but moving away from the excess of gore or the easy morbidity. Final minutes could be even classified worth of an action B movie from the 80s, developing in a quite exaggerated way the figure of a lone man set up as an enforcer against the world (the scene showing Todd armed to the teeth, flames waving behind him… and the previous conversation are just invaluable). Even so, some scenes (both action and thinking ones) are left engraved in the mind despite its simplicity, o maybe because that very thing, because of passing on so much with so little.
It goes without saying that the influence of both Philip K. Dick and Ridley Scott’s film are obvious by means of a few references and situations in the movie. So in more than a single scene the spectator could doubt about the humanity of the “soldier”, for example, his flashbacks could be considered as wrong operations in the memory of a manufactured being. However, I won’t speak more in this regard so I don’t spoil other details of the film.
As for performances, the wonderful Kurt Rusell plays excellently in the main role of Sergeant Todd, as he keeps the same martial tone and terminator like poker face along the film his performance requires. This doesn’t detracts his playing, happening quite the opposite: barely changing his expression and saying very few words (he hardly pronounces about 80 words in the whole film), his charisma reveals a great sensitive strength by means of plain glances and his corporal expression -or a mere brow furrow and a blink in a certain scene, when his character experiences a particular feeling for the first time. He is, without question, the main column of the whole film.
And speaking about Rusell, the funny nods to his former movies deserve special mention: pay attention to the achievements he received and the battles he won as they appears in the computer screen after the initial combat scenes.
On the other hand, secondary actors do a good work by a much better carried out direction than in most other movies of this gender. To mention a little negative point, I’d say colonel Mekum (Jason Isaacs) is a bit overacted in some moments, though this could be treated as part of his personality.
The technical section won’t go past into history annals for being quite remarkable, though photography has some outstanding moments. Most sets show the surface of an arid and deserted planet, where dust storms are common, as well as a human settlement so decrepit it could be marked to be post-apocaliptic. A few scenes deserve a special mention, as the panoramic when they put the rubbish out: behind tons of waste, long away in the horizon, we can see a few tepid and fearful suns, somehow hidden amongst big clouds -or, maybe, amongst gaseous pollution mass.
Both war machines and spaceships, as well as the costumes are pretty well designed. The vehicles hasn’t been made to look pretty and flashy, but to be shown as the destruction weapons they are: big, threatening and deadly; whereas the military clothing is of dark tones, hiding the faces behind a mask to turn the men who wear them in just inexpressive automatons, merely obeying the given orders, neither showing any feeling nor expecting them from other people -even if is revealed, by the way they shout in pain, that they have something of human beings, after all.
The music is modest but right, played when the opportune times comes in a melodic style, to stress the moments of special tension or emotion; and as a choral work a single time, in a succession of scenes that pass on the feelings of the soldier in his new civil life.
As a whole, you can’t expect this film to be a Do androids dream of electric sheep? reinterpretation, not even a philosophical (or aesthetic) Blade Runner sequel. Overall being an action film (and incidentally, an underrated and quite unknown one), it projects a message about loyalty and respect against ambition and yearning for power, the value of human life, the dehumanization (and triviality) of armed conflicts… not to forget neither the fascinating exposition the novel has as title, the existence of any feeling in man-made beings or treated as such.
Technical information and more Soldier reviews in IMDB.