Rollins is a proud black army attorney sent to investigate the ruthless shooting death of Caesar. He learns that Caesar was a vicious man who served the white world and despised his own roots. — Genre: Feature Film-Drama — R... more »ating: PG
Dan C. (drcalla) from HALES CORNERS, WI Reviewed on 9/27/2009...
Good movie, well written screen play from a stage play adaptation. Strong drama/charactor study about racial strife and segragation in the post WWII army adds some historical significance. If you are a Danzel fan or enjoyed 'Ragtime', you will like this one.
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A Spellbinding Tale, Brilliantly Told
J. Michael Click | Fort Worth, Texas United States | 12/31/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"A phenomenal cast brings Charles Fuller's adaptation of his Pulitzer Prize-winning play to the big screen. Howard E. Rollins, Jr., is magnetic as the Army Captain sent to investigate the murder of a black Sergeant in Louisiana during World War II; his careful detective work uncovers the complex layers of racism (both externalized and internalized) that led up to the crime. Adolph Caesar gives a superb, Oscar-nominated performance as the (unsympathetic) victim whose story is told through a series of flashbacks. And Larry Riley, David Alan Grier, Robert Townsend, and the always-magnificent Denzel Washington register strongly in important supporting roles. Effective as both a mystery and a social commentary, this worthy nominee for the 1984 Best Picture Oscar is tightly directed by Norman Jewison.The DVD presentation of this recent screen classic offers an excellent film-to-video transfer, featuring a sharp picture and crisp sound. The disc contains both the widescreen and fullscreen editions, and includes the original theatrical trailer. Also offered is a short but very moving 1999 documentary entitled "March to Freedom", which recounts several astonishing real-life stories of racism in the American armed forces during World War II. All-in-all, this is a highly recommended DVD that deserves a place in your home video library."
Our Nation's Story
El Lagarto | Sandown, NH | 05/21/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"A Soldier's Story simply has everything working for it, and the result is a frequently overlooked masterpiece that will add depth to any collection of American film. It works as a murder mystery and it works as an astounding inside look into cultural psychology. Certainly the themes of racism - and self-hatred - are universal. But this snapshot of southern race relations in 1944, seen in a military context, is also very specific, and more powerful still because of this specificity.
That these able-bodied men are not in Europe says a great deal, that they are baseball players from the Negro League tells us that even the national pastime was not truly national in 1944. When Captain Davenport, played with spellbinding dignity and power by Howard Rollins, arrives to investigate the murder of a hated drill instructor, he is the first black officer most of the men have ever encountered. Capt. Davenport's seriousness and dedication drive a wedge into the status quo, revealing layers of racism in white and black soldiers alike.
One of this movie's rewards is getting to watch familiar actors just starting their ascent, Denzel Washington, Robert Townsend (Hollywood Shuffle), and David Alan Grier to name a few. Even Philly's own chanteuse, Patti LaBelle, lends some characteristically high notes. But the star of this film is Sergeant Waters, the murdered drill instructor, played with smoldering intensity and conviction by Adolph Caesar. Hard to believe he did not receive an Oscar, after being nominated.
In Sgt. Waters, Caesar creates a man of multi-layered psychological complexity, whose hatred of blacks is more vicious than any white man's ever could be, whose assimilation of white culture is more desperate than any white man's ever is. Sgt. Waters believes himself to be a transformational man, a black who has put the embarrassing shuck-and-jive eye rolling behind him, a man who must kill his own blackness to be free. In doing so, he is responsible for the death of the film's most thoroughly innocent and likable character, C.J. Memphis, played admirably by Larry Riley.
By baiting Memphis, Sgt. Waters severs not only his ties to his true self, but to his humanity, in an attempt to further his crackpot philosophy. At this point he is more than doomed, he is damned. A Soldier's Story is not only a masterpiece of craftsmanship, it is a deeply truthful and humanistic story. Engrossing, but more than mere entertainment - art."
A Moral Film That Isn't Moralistic
quasar_909 | Cosmos | 03/12/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
""A Soldier's Story" is a truly compelling film that gives the viewer a lot to think about. While this film explores the issue of racism and intra-racial prejudice, it does so without being overwhelming or preachy.Howard Rollins gives a solid performance in the role of Captain Davenport; a stoic and principled officer who is assigned to solve the murder of a black NCO--Sgt. Vernon Waters--at a military base outside of Tynin, Louisiana. Davenport is determined to solve this murder and he's not going to let the white racist senior officers stand in his way. At the same time, he doesn't let the enlisted black soldiers suck-up to him because he's on a mission and he wants to get at the truth, no matter what.Adolph Caesar plays the hard-ass, irascible Sgt. Waters. Caesar plays this role for all it's worth and he does a great job of making the viewer feel his contempt for southern blacks and for himself. Robert Townsend adds a bit of comic relief to this tense drama in his role of the bumbling sycophant Coporal Ellis. For all the fawning attention he gives to Captain Davenport, you, the viewer, can understand and feel Ellis' sense of pride in working with a black officer.Denzel Washington also gives a convincing performance in the role of Private Peterson. Peterson is the angry young black man who not only resents the white racist society in which he lives but also the blacks who try to keep other black people down. This inner rage is played out in a very tense verbal exchange between Peterson and Waters which ultimately culminates in a fight between the two men.The only weakness this movie has is its reliance of the flashback throughout the film. At times, this technique comes across as a bit awkward but given the context of the film, this technique is appropriate.Despite this minor criticism, I'd have to say that this is a first-rate film and I highly recommend it."
Definately one of my favorite American movies.
Rykre | Carson City, Nevada | 11/26/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I think the first time I saw this movie, was an edited TV version. I usually don't watch TV because I'm annoyed by commercial interruptions. But, this film captured my interest because of how well it played out as flashbacks being put together to come to a conclusion about a murder. This is a suspenseful story with an unexpected conclusion.
Tynin, Louisiana 1944. A black non-commissioned officer was murdered. Shot to death on a roadside near a bridge, outside of a predominately black army base with only white officers. A black army officer lawyer (Howard Rollins, Jr.) comes from Washington D.C. to Louisiana to investigate the murder. No one has ever seen a black officer before and white officers only heard of the possibility that a black man could be an officer. As you can imagine, this black officer doesn't get much support from the white officers on the base.
This is a powerful film of perseverance, courage, determination, pride, and accomplishment against overwhelming odds. And the cast is fabulous. Howard Rollins, Jr. Adolph Caesar, David Alan Grier, Denzel Washington, Art Evans, David Harris, Larry Riley (as C.J. Memphis), Wings Hauser, and many other stars you know you've seen before. And it even includes Patti Labelle as Big Mary belting out some fabulous Southern Rockin' Blues.
This is my very favorite film that has Denzel Washington, although "Mississippi Masala" is a close second."
All the twists and turns of a good murder mystery
quasar_909 | 08/16/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is one of the best murder mystery movies in years. It is superbly acted and directed. It appeals to all ages and the base depiction and military politics are all wonderful. Why is it that this movie is unavailable at most major video rental outlets??? Amazes me..."