A Soldier’s Story

A Soldier's Story
A Soldier's Story
Share this article

Recommended by Ralph Mellon

A brilliant film from 1984 which blends murder mystery, courtroom drama and a look at racism from a different angle.

Directed by Norman Jewison, adapted by Charles Fuller from his play, and with an early role for Denzel Washington, its wartime setting is a segregated army base in 1944 Louisiana.

A black master sergeant, Waters, (Adolph Caesar) is murdered and a black lawyer, Captain Davenport (Howard E. Rollins Jnr) is brought in to investigate.

His (white) superiors order him to wrap up the case in three days, fearing trouble from local townsfolk.

But Davenport’s interrogations reveal Sgt Waters was a deeply unpopular man among both whites and blacks – and also savagely prejudiced himself against types of his own kind.

Caesar gives a searing, once-in-a-lifetime performance as Waters – one of the best portrayals in any film, ever – and should have had the supporting Oscar. He lost out to Dr Haing S. Ngor in ‘The Killing Fields’.