Kurt Russell has had quite a prolific career since he started acting as a child in 1963, and Soldier is one of his lesser known films from the 90s that you may have overlooked. Though Soldier is said to have been set in the Bladerunner universe, it functions just fine as a standalone film while borrowing some themes from Philip K Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, the novel that inspired Bladerunner.
While Soldier currently isn’t streaming for free at the time of this writing, it can be rented on demand on platforms like Apple TV+.
For what the film is obviously lacking on the dialogue front, Kurt Russell convincingly takes on the role of a hardened soldier with nothing to lose, and the action sequences are worthy of praise.
Though Kurt Russell is the protagonist in Soldier, he only speaks 104 lines of dialogue throughout the entire movie despite the fact that he is in 85 percent of the scenes. What’s more, about half of those words are “sir.” As difficult as this piece of information is to process, Russell does an excellent job capturing his Sergeant Todd (soldier #3465) character’s essence through visual storytelling.
The premise for Kurt Russel’s Soldier is simple. in 1996, Todd was an orphan at birth, and was adopted by a military training program that molded him into a highly disciplined soldier with no concept of anything outside of following orders and killing his enemies. By the year 2036, he became a hardened soldier with an intimidating kill count.
Soldier is said to have been set in the Bladerunner universe.
But enough time has passed for Colonel Mekum, the man behind the original 1996 unit, to have developed a new faction of genetically engineered soldiers, rendering Todd’s platoon obsolete. In other words, the soldier in Soldier, along with the rest of his unit are about to be replaced by better soldiers, who are physically superior, and only know how to feel aggression.
Kurt Russel’s Todd tries to demonstrate that he’s still useful by engaging in a combat exercise with one of the new soldiers, but he is subdued, and presumed dead after putting up a good fight.
Todd, along with the other dead soldiers, are loaded onto a ship and dumped on Arcadia 234, which is a waste disposal planet occupied by a community of scavengers and garbage pickers who lead a simple life.
He is taken in by a man named Mace and his wife Sandra, and quickly develops a mentor-like relationship with their mute son, Nathan. No longer having to follow orders, Kurt Russell’s Todd has difficulty adjusting to civilian life, and clashes with the community despite his efforts to assimilate since being relieved of his soldier duties.
After a series of mishaps brought about through violent reactions to war flashbacks, Todd is banished from the community because he’s seen as a threat to their way of life. Though Kurt Russell barely has any spoken lines in Soldier, Todd becomes tearful, because he fails to understand what he did wrong, and is overcome with grief upon being exiled.
Not only does Kurt Russell go on a total rampage a la Escape from New York, he also intimidates Mekum into peeing his pants.
By Soldier’s third act, a new conflict arises. The new gang of genetically altered soldiers is brought to Arcadia 234 for target practice and training since the planet is listed in the military registry as uninhabited. Not knowing that Todd is still alive, they figure that they’d simply scorch the planet and move on to their next mission.
At this point in the film the planet’s inhabitants realize the need for soldiers like Todd, and Kurt Russell delivers his best line when asked what he’s going to do about the invading army: “I’m gonna kill them all, sir.”
From this point forward, we witness Todd’s expertise in weapons and guerilla warfare in Soldier. Not only does Todd have decades of combat experience, he has the home team advantage because he knows the lay of the land better than his enemies. Not only does Kurt Russell go on a total rampage a la Escape from New York, he also intimidates Mekum into peeing his pants.
Soldier was both a critical and commercial failure upon its release, only earning $14.6 million against its budget of $60 million, and a 15 percent critical score on Rotten Tomatoes. But for what the film is obviously lacking on the dialogue front, Kurt Russell convincingly takes on the role of a hardened soldier with nothing to lose, and the action sequences are worthy of praise.
The best part about Soldier is its visual storytelling, which allows you to sit back, relax, and watch Kurt Russell kill dozens of people without batting an eyelash.