This movie is a futuristic story about a flesh and blood, killing automaton, Sgt. Todd (Kurt Russell), whose path leads him to the discovery that there are other emotions than fear, and more to life than discipline.
The story opens in a hospital nursery where uniformed agents are selecting babies to be raised as soldiers in an elite combat corps; within that unit, they will be taught that mercy is weakness and weakness is death. Children who don’t make the grade . . . don’t make it.
They grow up. They grow older. A new crop of soldiers arrive. The veterans of the old corps are pitted against the young and genetically engineered — the pride of the new military elite — and found wanting in stamina and strength.
Left for dead on a “waste” planet, Sgt. Todd discovers a community of crash survivors eeking out an existence in hostile elements. He does not understand the social interactions and dynamics of these people. He does not understand the concept of husband and wife; mother, father, child; sister and brother. He was stripped from infancy of any basis for such an understanding. But he observes, and slowly the silent soldier begins to feel the stirrings of his lost humanity.
Enter the new combat elite on a training mission to the waste planet, where they are ordered to treat anything that lives as hostile. The old soldiers have been brought along “just in case,” but are unarmed and stripped of dignity and purpose.
But the battlefield is not the training gym. It is now the young, the strong, and the stupid, pitted against the tried, the tough, and the cunning. And may the best man win.
This sci/fi – action is several grades above the usual “see-shoot-kill” action thriller. It has a plot rather than a thin excuse for showing off special effects, and characterization rather than just human vehicles for violence. And though it’s no Oscar contender, it really got a bum rap from the critics. I made it a part of my viewing library, for it is good enough to watch more than once, and to share with those unfortunates who have never heard of it.