Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5. USA, 1984. Columbia Pictures Corporation, Caldix. Screenplay by Charles Fuller, based on his play A Soldier’s Play. Cinematography by Russell Boyd. Produced by Norman Jewison, Patrick J. Palmer, Ronald L. Schwary. Music by Herbie Hancock. Production Design by Walter Scott Herndon. Costume Design by Tom Dawson. Film Editing by Caroline Biggerstaff, Mark Warner. Academy Awards 1984. Golden Globe Awards 1984. National Board of Review Awards 1984.
Tense murder mystery about the murder of an army sergeant (Adolph Caesar) at a Louisiana base in 1944. Howard E. Rollins Jr. is superb as a captain who is sent down from Washington, D.C. to investigate the incident but is met with resistance from the locals who insist that any attempt to solve the mystery, which the soldiers assume has been committed by local Klan members, would lead to a full-blown race war. The local privates in the all-black army corps are excited to see their first black captain handling the case, but the continued investigation (complete with flashbacks in which Caesar gives a riveting performance) reveals a greater tragedy than at first originally seemed possible: self-hatred in members of the African-American community as a result of years of intolerance and racism. The subject and story are irresistible, but Norman Jewison’s direction lacks dramatic force and the whole thing is a lot flatter than it should be considering the various elements involved. Look for Denzel Washington and David Alan Grier in early career roles.