I Am Soldier review (Blu-ray)

I Am Soldier has been released at the perfect time to coast on the coattails of the box-office hit Lone Survivor. This time it’s the turn of the Brits to show the world what it truly means to serve your country. However, first they have to go to the wetlands of Wales to be trained. Probably not the most glamorous of locations, but hey – this is real life.

Mickey (Hughes) has enlisted in the Special Air Service, aka the SAS, yet this process requires some of the most emotional and physical training known to man. Getting in to the SAS is one of the hardest tasks possible, as Mickey soon finds out in wilds of the Welsh mountains. But when the Counter Terrorism Squadron requests the real-life usage of Mickey, Carter (Clarke) and the rest of the new recruits for a deadly situation, they must show that they have what it takes to become the best of the best. Many try to get into the SAS, but only the elite prevail.

Writer-director Thompson has moved on from his debut horror Tower Block from a couple of years ago, now delving into the auditioning process for the greatest British military service there is. But while the initial introductory storyline seems heavy on factual information, it’s an interesting comment on the process that the boys have to go through. It gives a riveting, and detailed, look that most would never see. These scenes are the standout moments in the film as it gives it an in-depth and personal feel.

Sadly, this doesn’t last and in the final 30 minutes we are treated to a poor rendition of a rescue mission that has no redeeming moments and actually drags the action, pace and tense down to almost boredom levels. It’s a messy finale that lacks any sense of realism, with hand-to-hand combat that is poorly choreographed along with a woefully underdeveloped, and needless, love story that makes the movie even more confusing. All of this leads to an offering that's similar to the second-rate TV army programmes that pop up every year – mainly staring Ross Kemp.

Hughes doesn’t seem the typical bloke we would expect to see in a movie about entering the SAS. Devoid of a bulky posture, a gruff voice and a beard he still gives a good account of showing that even those not instantly associated with this genre can kick ass. While he seems more at home with the dialogue-heavy scenes, he maintains a tough exterior to hold the film together just enough to keep it ticking along. Clarke, the only other recognisable face, ducks in and out of the film without too much bother. He gets to show his macho side towards the end, but it feels too forced and without any heavyweight presence. Clarke is much better than this, but is never given anything he can work with and be able to develop his character.

I Am Soldier would have worked better as a study on what it takes to make it in the SAS. Character development is stopped by the all-guns-blazing finale that smacks of “we need a proper action finish to our movie”. Alongside a poorly-written script and some misguided direction, the story gets dislodged about a third of the way through and reverts to clichéd army action.

EXTRAS ★ Just the relatively short featurette Making I Am Soldier (7:00).

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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