Soldier's Story, A [1984]

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

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