Howard E. Rollins Jr., Adolph Caesar, Denzel Washington
Directed by Norman Jewison
Columbia Home Video
102 minutes

When Captain Davenport (Howard E. Rollins Jr.) arrives at the army base in Tynin, Louisiana to investigate the shooting death of Sergeant Waters (a brilliant performance by Adolph Caesar) he soon finds himself hampered by the army who does not really want to know the truth, by the Black soldiers Waters commanded, and by the local townspeople who do not like having Negro soldiers in their midst. A Soldier’s Story is a great murder mystery movie where the whodunit hides quite a lot of social commentary on race relations and Black on Black racism.

Dramatist Charles Fuller adapted A Soldier’s Story from his highly successful A Soldier’s Play and Canadian director Norman Jewison, who is probably most famous for In The Heat Of The Night, Jesus Christ Superstar, the original Rollerball, and Fiddler on The Roof, delivers a beautifully filmed and very tight crime movie. There is not a single extra scene in this film and not a single bad performance in an ensemble cast that also features David Alan Grier, Denzel Washington, and songs by Patti LaBelle who plays Big Mary, the lady who runs the local juke joint.

The star of the movie is Adolph Caesar, a self-hating Black man who aspires for so much more for himself and expects so much more from the Black soldiers under his command. He is a deeply tortured man who is both an Uncle Tom and a man who fights for his race. It soon becomes clear that everybody hated Sergeant Waters, especially the men under his command, but it is quite a mystery until the end as to whom, of all the people who would have willingly killed him, actually did murder him while he was coming back to base after a drinking binge.

A Soldier’s Story is simply a must see movie.

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