Soldier Blue

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"The most savage film in history!"
  • PG
  • 1970
  • 1 hr 52 min
  • 6.9  (6,140)

In 1970, the western film Soldier Blue hit theaters, portraying the harsh realities of warfare and the atrocities of colonialism during the time of Manifest Destiny. Directed by Ralph Nelson and starring Candice Bergen, Peter Strauss, and Donald Pleasence, the film follows the story of a Union soldier and a young woman with whom he crosses paths while in pursuit an Apache raiding party.

As the film opens, Private Honus Gant (played by Peter Strauss) and other soldiers are on a mission in the Great Plains to wipe out a tribe of Native Americans who they believe have been attacking white settlers. With his greenhorn status evident, Honus is paired up with experienced scout, Sergeant Charles Grey (played by Donald Pleasence). Together, they eventually come across a group of people who had been attacked by the tribe. Among the survivors, Honus notices a young woman named Cresta Marybelle Lee (played by Candice Bergen). As she speaks both English and the language of the tribe, Honus and Charles decide to take her with them, using her as a guide to track down the Apache.

However, as the trio travels together, they continue to witness firsthand the brutalities of American imperialism as they come across massacred Native American villages and find themselves confronted with the realities of warfare. Crest's contempt for the soldiers, particularly Honus, becomes increasingly apparent as she is forced to witness and participate in the violence they bring upon the people and land in pursuit of their goals. Her views are contrasted with Honus, who begins to question the legitimacy of their mission and the justification for the violence they perpetrate.

The film portrays the horrors of imperialism with raw, unflinching emotion. The massacre of Native Americans is depicted in graphic detail, including the brutal killing of women and children, conveying the large-scale violence perpetuated against indigenous cultures in America. The film also highlights the deep-seated racism and prejudice of colonizers towards Native Americans, who were often portrayed through racist stereotypes as "savages" who needed to be "civilized" by the white man.

The romance that slowly develops between Crest and Honus adds another layer to the film's emotional complexity, representing the impossible love between two individuals starkly divided by a brutal, oppressive system. As Crest and Honus struggle to reconcile their own desires with the violence they have both witnessed and participated in, their story becomes a symbol of hope in the darkness of war.

The film's final act is a harrowing, tragic depiction of one of the deadliest events in U.S. military history, an event in which hundreds of unarmed Cheyenne and Arapaho men, women, and children were gunned down at Wounded Knee Creek. This scene offers a stark reminder of the violence and systemic oppression that underpinned American imperialism, bringing the film's message of anti-colonialism and anti-violence to its ultimate conclusion.

Overall, Soldier Blue goes beyond the typical western genre, delivering a powerful and heartbreaking message about the destructive nature of imperialism and its continued impact on America. Its brutal depictions of violence and oppression, combined with the complex and nuanced characters, allow the film to stand out as a timeless work of cinema that remains relevant to this day.

Soldier Blue is a 1970 western with a runtime of 1 hour and 52 minutes. It has received mostly positive reviews from critics and viewers, who have given it an IMDb score of 6.9.

Soldier Blue
Where to Watch Soldier Blue
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  • Release Date
  • MPAA Rating
  • Runtime
    1 hr 52 min
  • Language
  • IMDB Rating
    6.9  (6,140)