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Soldiers Story, a

Howard E. Rollins Jr. , Adolph Caesar , Norman Jewison    PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)   VHS Tape
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)

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Director Norman Jewison's (In the Heat of the Night) 1984 adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize-winning play explores the ramifications of racism and loyalty through the prism of blacks in the military, revealed through a murder mystery set in the 1940s deep South. Howard E. Rollins (Ragtime) plays a military investigator assigned to the murder of a drill instructor (Adolph Caesar) in charge of a black platoon. Under pressure from his superiors to wrap his investigation up quickly, Rollins instead delves deeply into the relationships between the despised drill instructor and his men, uncovering lies and animosity, and confronting the question of what it means to be black in a white man's world. Rollins is a riveting, stoic, and emotional lead, and Denzel Washington makes an early appearance as a soldier with a deep grudge against the drill instructor and a deep mistrust of Rollins' investigator. A powerfully written story that makes the most of its large and impressive ensemble cast, A Soldier's Story is a deeply affecting and worthwhile film. --Robert Lane

Customer Reviews

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4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Definately one of my favorite American movies. Nov. 26 2003
By Rykre
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.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A Moral Film That Isn't Moralistic March 12 2001
Format:VHS Tape
"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.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Spellbinding Tale, Brilliantly Told Dec 30 2000
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.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent performances Aug. 23 2000
Format:VHS Tape
This movie takes a hard look at racism in the military duringthe 1940s ... The plot focuses around the murder of a black officer, and the Rollins character's investigation to find out who really was responsible for his death, in classic whodunit style. Especially worth noting are the performances of Adolph Caesar, Denzel Washington and Larry Riley, even though the entire cast is stellar. Patti LaBelle also has a cameo (and yes, she sings!). Riveting all around. Don't hesitate to pick this one up. END
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4.0 out of 5 stars The Classic Murder Twist March 3 2000
By A Customer
Underated and only now available on DVD, this is a classic period piece. Totally overlooked are two musical performances by Patti Labelle, who is forced to sing in the period of 40's music... outdoes Aretha! What a shame the soundtrack is undeveloped and unavailable..Labelle never got that the constraint of such music results in a more powerful performance than in most of her subsequent work. Listen for yourselves and enjoy a finely crafted mystery, as well.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Very good
Published 27 days ago by M. Pacitti
5.0 out of 5 stars A must see
This is a must see movie. It features some of the best African-American actors and has a story line that everyone can relate to.
Published on Jan. 19 2003 by Paul
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
I found this movie to be a beautifully done flick. I remember going to the movies with my family to go see it. I was only 6 years old when it came out, but I remembered it. Read more
Published on Jan. 18 2003 by Tanika L. Carroll
5.0 out of 5 stars A Soldiers Story
This is one of my favorite movies...It is about a black army officers death..It deals with racial tention and even racism within the black race.. Read more
Published on Sept. 15 2001 by "kmartinklover"
4.0 out of 5 stars The Classic Murder Twist
Unerated and only now available on DVD, this is a classic period piece. Totally overlooked are two musical performances by Patti Labelle, who is forced to sing in the period of... Read more
Published on March 3 2000
5.0 out of 5 stars a classic gem
this a great film.this is probably one of the greatest films that has never been seen in wide view like it so richly deserves.the Acting is very solid all the way thru. Read more
Published on Feb. 6 2000 by mistermaxxx08
5.0 out of 5 stars All the twists and turns of a good murder mystery
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. Read more
Published on Aug. 15 1999
5.0 out of 5 stars An overlooked gem.
This film if very clever, thought-provoking and also manages to have very funny moments. It features many familiar faces (including Denzel Washington) early in their careers.
Published on June 22 1999 by rad@aol.com
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