Directed by Daniel Markowicz, Soulcatcher mixes two themes together and comes out not as smart as it would have liked. Initially, it seemed like it was a ‘man versus technology’ plot, where mankind was fighting to save its own humanity. Later, the film flipped, and it became more like a ‘democracy versus dictatorship’ battle. The two themes are connected quite literally by the metaphor of a machine that can apparently turn humans into violent, psychotic zombies. It was invented with the noble intention of curing cancer, but due to some malfunctions, it turned people into savages. A machine turning against mankind; it sounds like it’s from the very near future, doesn’t it?
Set in Poland and Chechnya, Soulcatcher has characters that look like they have been taken out of a video game. The story progresses through a series of ‘missions’, just like in a video game, and you get to see how the main player goes about the deadly missions. In Soulcatcher, the main player is a man by the name of Robert Kiel, who loses his brother in a mission and ultimately has to go up against Poland’s high-profile minister, Jan Zareba. Let’s take a deep dive into these two characters:
Piotr Witkowski as Robert Kiel
Robert Kiel, aka Fang, ex-military personnel, is sent on a mission to recover the photos of General Yousif’s war crimes that were being held by a woman named Eliza Mazur. Kiel had his crew, and his brother Piotr was also accompanying him on the mission. Imagine this mission as setting up Kiel’s backstory, after which you start to go to more complex levels in the video game. The crew knew only that Eliza had been kidnapped by Yousif, and their job was to get the photos. Getting Eliza back wasn’t mandatory for the mission to be termed successful. Kiel was in for an ambush, but he didn’t know it.
Kiel, Piotr, Harbir, and other members of the crew landed on an island and started to look for the village where Yousif had kidnapped Eliza. They shot the kidnappers, found Eliza, and got her to give them the photos. Kiel thought the mission was over, but suddenly, the whole crew started to get attacked by insanely violent people who didn’t even seem to care that they were walking straight into gunfire. The crew killed all the incoming attackers, but something really strange happened to Piotr. He became just like one of the violent attackers and tried to kill Kiel. Perplexed but left with no choice, Kiel had to kill Piotr.
What happened to Piotr? Why did he become a killing machine, just like the ones who attacked the crew? The reason was that Yousif had in his inventory a weapon that can be called the greatest weapon of mass destruction since the invention of the atomic bomb. Piotr walked into the ‘blast radius’ of the machine that was called the Soulcatcher. It had been invented by Eliza Mazur’s father, one of the greatest scientists ever, Professor Witold Mazur. Kiel had to kill his own brother because of the evil machine. Piotr had become a mindless killing machine, and Kiel had no other option but to kill him. After the unfortunate incident, Kiel was shattered, but the spirit of revenge was so deeply ingrained in him now that he would go to any lengths to kill Yousif and Witold. Before he could even go after them, Kiel was arrested by Interpol. Luckily, Poland’s high-profile minister, a man known as Jan Zareba, gets him out of custody. He plays an important role in Kiel’s revenge. In fact, Jan changes how Kiel perceives General Yousif and Professor Witold Mazur.
When Kiel was sent on the mission to get Soulcatcher back to Poland, he didn’t suspect what Jan wanted to do with it. Kiel was not a very knowledgeable guy. He simply depended on the skills he had learned in the army. The rest of the things, like deciding whom to accept a mission from or whom to trust, he left to his brother Piotr. Unfortunately, he was no more, and Kiel simply fell into Jan’s long game. Kiel was lucky in just one regard: he had a fantastic crew around him who saved his life on more than one occasion. Harbir, Ania, Byk, and Krzysztof ensured he survived. Later Witold’s daughter Eliza also became Kiel’s lover and helped him in his mission.
Kiel managed to destroy Soulcatcher. He did so because he understood the machine was never going to be used for curing cancer. It was a source of death and destruction, and he could not let Jan misuse it. Jan had deceived him at every step. He was trying to use Kiel’s urge for revenge for his own benefit but interestingly, Kiel didn’t let his vengeance blind him. Kiel didn’t kill Witold as per Jan’s instructions. He resisted his urge for revenge. Piotr had been killed because of Witold’s invention, but after just one interaction, he realized that Witold was simply Yousif’s hostage and not his accomplice. This was just one instance where Kiel did not obey Jan’s command. He shouldn’t have listened to him at all, as he was planning to become Poland’s dictator.
Jacek Koman as Jan Zareba
Jan Zareba was Poland’s minister. What exactly his designation was is never revealed, but he was powerful enough to get Kiel released from Interpol’s custody. He was the one who had given Piotr the mission to go after General Yousif. In the beginning, it seemed that Jan was a good man and wanted to use Soulcatcher for what it was intended to do in the first place. Kiel believed him and went on to recover the machine for him. Jan was even worse than General Yousif, and Kiel should never have believed him. Yousif was simply going to sell Soulcatcher to a buyer from Africa, but Jan was going to use it to create his own army and become Poland’s dictator. He had no remorse for Piotr’s death and just wanted Kiel’s help to get the machine back.
Kiel came to know about Jan’s reality after he arrived in Poland with Soulcatcher, and suddenly, Jan, his ally Sergeant Damian Prochyra, and his team attacked Kiel and his crew. Poor Krzysztof got killed, and Ania was brutally injured. The Interpol Agent who had arrested Kiel earlier came just in time to learn Jan’s reality. Jan’s evil plans just didn’t stop there. He used his political power to spread fear and paranoia among the people. He labeled Kiel and his crew terrorists and used the media to spread this message. He wanted people to be so scared of their surroundings that they would vote for anyone who offered them the least bit of security from this ‘fake’ threat.
When Kiel killed Damian and planted a bomb in Soulcatcher, Jan didn’t act as if he was worried because, according to him, the damage was already done. He simply wanted to be that ‘leader’ who would guide Poland’s populace to security and freedom. Taking cues from political leaders of the past who used unethical measures to gain power, Jan wanted to create a homogeneous society. Kiel’s crew had Harbir, who was a Sikh man, a minority in Poland. Similarly, Ania was a lesbian. They represented the ‘different’ people Jan wanted Poland’s population to be terrified of.
But ultimately, Jan’s plan failed because Kiel trapped him into revealing his reality to the Interpol agent, who recorded his conversation with Kiel, where he explained all his evil plans. There was an uprising in Poland, and the local population barged into Jan’s office to literally oust him from public office. Jan thought he would use Kiel to his advantage, but in the end, Kiel gets the better of him. Jan escaped like a coward. Being escorted by an unknown man posing as his driver, it seems like Jan would probably end up dead. The unknown man could be a local fellow who got in the car to kill him, or it could have been Byk, one of the members of Kiel’s crew. Whatever the case, Jan was not going to get away scot-free. There is perhaps a chance that the makers wanted to leave space in the narrative for a sequel, which is why they did not reveal the identity of the mysterious driver.