A Soldier's Story (1984)

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Released 16-Oct-2001

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Featurette-March To Freedom
Audio Commentary-Norman Jewison (Director)
Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-Bridge On The River Kwai;Glory;Few Good Men;Guns Of Navarone
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1984
Running Time 96:41
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Norman Jewison

Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring Howard E. Rollins, Jr.
Adolph Caesar
Denzel Washington
Case Soft Brackley-Transp
RPI $36.95 Music Herbie Hancock

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 4.0 L-C-R-S (448Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
French Audio Commentary
German Audio Commentary
Italian Audio Commentary
Spanish Audio Commentary
Dutch Audio Commentary
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    A Soldier's Story is based on the play A Solders Play by Charles Fuller. The theatrical version was filmed in Arkansas in 1984 but the story itself is set in 1944 towards the end of the Second World War.

    Captain Davenport (Howard E. Rollins, Jr.) is sent down south to Fort Neal to investigate the shooting death of Sergeant Waters (Adolph Caesar). The U.S. Army has passed the incident off as a racial attack and the local military is not keen to investigate the mater in any detail. When Davenport arrives in town, the morale of Waters' men gets a boost when they learn that Davenport is coloured like the rest of the men and will therefore be working on their side. Matters get worse as the local townsfolk and Base Commanders realise they are dealing with not only a black man but one with the rank of an Officer.

    Davenport begins his investigation by interviewing the sergeant's men to try and build a picture of what happened on the night of the shooting. Many mixed emotions are brought up during the process and it is up to the viewer to start piecing the clues together and try to define motives for each of the men. In order to help with your detective work, the film consists of flash backs during the interviews and the transitions between the interview dialogue and the past tense footage are quite well done.

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Transfer Quality


     The video transfer presented on this DVD is quite pleasing to the eye.

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and is 16x9 enhanced.

    The transfer appears to have an aged look to give the impression that it was actually filmed in the 40s. Shadow detail is quite good - it needs to be with frequent scenes set in the dark dormitories at the army base. The night scenes also contain a lot of deep black while maintaining sufficient light on the characters being emphasised by the cinematographer. There is no low level noise.

    The colours exhibited natural fleshtones and the scenery was richly coloured. It's unfortunate that a military base is primarily made up of drab greys and greens, which rarely provides an opportunity for vibrant colouration to show through.

    There were no MPEG artefacts seen. Aliasing is rare and mild when it does occur. There were frequent film artefacts, but thankfully they remained small and non-obtrusive unless you were specifically looking for them rather than concentrating on the film itself.

    This disc is a single sided single layered disc.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    The best soundtrack available on this disc is an English Dolby Digital 4.0 track (L-C-R-S) which I listened to in its entirety.

    The dialogue was clear and easy to understand at all times. Audio sync was not a problem at all with this transfer, and was completely spot on.

    The musical score by Herbie Hancock was about the only time the speakers were allowed to stretch their legs and fill the room with sound. Even when this did happen, the sound always dropped back to a background level during dialogue and then sprang up again to match the pace of the on-screen action. The film primarily concentrates on interviews and one-on-one dialogue and because of this, the 4.0 track doesn't leave you wanting more from the speakers.

    The front speakers are used heavily by this track and good directional effects can be heard. Examples start early at 4:00, 4:27 and then again at 12:58. These mainly consist of on-screen action that flows across the front soundstage. Unfortunately, these directional effects rarely fall back from the front stage to the surround channel.

    The surround channels were used for ambience and music. I detected no directional effects or precise sound placement in the rear soundfield.

    The subwoofer was not used for extra bass.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


     A good selection of extras are present.


    The menu design is themed around the movie.

"A March To Freedom" Documentary (14:50)

    The documentary gives a more detailed insight into the racial tension that existed not only in the general populous of America but specifically within its own armed forces. Several black men that felt the full brunt of this inequality speak out about their involvement in the war abroad as well as the battle for equality they fought at home.

Theatrical Trailers

    All trailers feature a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack only. A Soldier's Story suffers from telecine wobble and Bridge On The River Kwai has an extremely high level of film artefacts.

Director's Commentary - Norman Jewison

    This commentary features Norman Jewison in the centre channel speaking over the film's Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded soundtrack. I found it to be rather informative and it provides an insight into the movie that would otherwise be lost to viewers.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on;

    The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on;     There are no compelling differences between the two versions of this DVD.


    I enjoyed A Soldier's Story, broaching as it does a sensitive and controversial subject that is often not well-handed in films.

    The video quality has a distinct 40s feel about it which suits the film. The artefacts are easy to ignore.

    Whilst a 5.1 track would have been nice, the close focus on dialogue never left my ears wanting more from the 4.0 track.

    The extras are interesting and gave me a small taste of what some soldiers went through.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Peter Mellor (read my bio)
Saturday, January 26, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer XV-DV55, using S-Video output
DisplayLoewe 72cm. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationPioneer XV-DV55
SpeakersPioneer S-DV55ST-K Satellite wall mouted 5-Speaker System; Pioneer S-DV55SW-K Powered Subwoofer

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