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Silent Running [1972] - 4.97

After creating many of the innovative special effects for 2001: A Space Odyssey, Douglas Trumbull tried his hand at directing, and 1971's Silent Running marked an impressive debut. (In addition to creating the visual effects for Close Encounters of the Third Kind and directing 1983's Brainstorm, Trumbull later turned to the creation of high-tech cinematic amusement park rides.) One of the best science-fiction films of the 1970s, Silent Running stars Bruce Dern as Freeman Lowell, a nature-loving crewmember aboard the Valley Forge, a gigantic spaceship in a small fleet that carries the last surviving forests of the Earth, which has fallen victim to overpopulation and ecological neglect.

Freeman's name reflects his nonconformist philosophy, which runs counter to the prevailing recklessness of his three ill-fated crewmates, who are eager to jettison their precious payload and return to the bleakness of Earth. Before they can sabotage the forests, Freeman does what he must, and spends the remainder of his mission with three robotic "drones" as his only companions, struggling to maintain his sanity in the vastness of space. Dern is superb in this memorable role, representing the lost soul of humankind as well as the back-to-nature youth movement of the 1960s and the pre-Watergate era. (Appropriately, Joan Baez sings the film's theme song.) A rare science-fiction film that combines bold adventure with passionate social conscience, Silent Running will remain relevant as long as the Earth is threatened by the ravages of human carelessness. --Jeff Shannon, Amazon.com

Customer reviews (av rating: 4.5):

Rating: 5:
in space no one can hear you talk sense : Just read Bobby cooks review on this underated masterpiece.I wept aswell 30 od years ago and guess what? Nothings changed . Every viewing of this film grabs me by the gut and just dosent let go . Why ? . Because its one of the few films to show us how hidious and uncaring 'humankind' can really be . Dont believe me ? check it out . In my opinion only in a handfull of film works has this emotive level been reached(albeit a very big handfull)see what you think and enjoy:
'cookoos nest''scum''planet of the apes''made in britain''easy rider''repulsion''la haine''long weekend'.....You know the score . I could go on and on but Finally a word for an even more underated Work of Art . Geoff Murphys 'The Quiet Earth' Utterly stunning . See it to believe it and dont forget to show yerself before he shoots the kid . If only somebody had the imagination and the balls to make films like this now.........peace to y'all
Markac

Rating: 5:
One of the very great Sci-Fi films. : Many Directors have been quick to label their own genius with works such as 2001: A Space Odyssey and Blade Runner when, in fact, the genius belongs to their Special Effects Art Director Douglas Trumbull. It can be argued, and many have, that Trumbull is probably the most important figure in modern Sci-Fi, creating the dark world of Blade Runner, the impressive but ultimately sterile Universe in 2001 and the awe-inspiring UFO scenes in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. But what many don't know is that Trumbull directed his own Sci-Fi film in 1972 named Silent Running. Given a relatively low budget, in comparison to 2001 and his later work Blade Runner, Trumbull would prove that the best work comes from people who have to make do with what little they have.

Silent Running bequeaths the tale of a future Earth extinct of any plant life, with only a very few specimens having been saved in gargantuan space-bound greenhouses attached to a fleet of "Space Freighters" (the 'American Airline' of its day). These ships stay residing just outside the orbit of Saturn until Earth needs them back to reforest the planet. Bruce Dern, who plays Freeman Lowell, the appointed Head Gardner of the greenhouse-in-space, would rather spend time feeding his bunnies than hang out with his knucklehead crew. Well, unless there is a chance of embarrassing them at a game of Poker. However, when orders come in to nuke the remaining greenhouses and become a commercial airline once again, Lowell decides he would rather see his crew dead than watch the last remaining pieces of nature go into the light.

What's truly amazing about Silent Running is how anti-sci-fi it is. Yes, there are some stunning visuals and it certainly looks to be a sci-fi movie, but ultimately this is a story about human beings. This is not the logic based evolutionary wanderings of 2001, neither does it have the philosophical vitality of Blade Runner or The Matrix. Silent Running is not concerned if the reality we are waking up to is in fact another form of illusion, or pondering about what makes us truly human. No, Silent Running is about a relatively simple person in an unremarkable situation. Lowell's basic choice is - do I want human beings to survive, or my garden? He opts for the latter. There are too many human beings, anyway. But as the movie goes on Lowell finds that, although he can only find alienation with his own kind, he can't help but miss them.

In fact, he misses them so much that his robot workers now go by the human names of "Huey, Dewey and Louie". Notice I use the term 'robot' very loosely there. Due to Trumbull's budget what we in fact have are brightly coloured microwaves with rubber-gloved feet. But, my God, are they the most humanised robots ever depicted on screen. On first glance gentle snickering maybe heard from the back of your mind, but as time passes you grow so attached and loving towards these boxes that, when Lowell accidentally runs one over, it's as if your own son has been named road kill. This is such an amazing feature of Directing from Trumbull. Let's face it, anyone can make a robot seem more human when you cast humans as the robots. (Though, I did wonder whether Harrison Ford was in fact the Tin Man in Blade Runner). Trumbull intelligently creates a robot where the audience, as well as Lowell, have to project their own feelings, desires & hopes onto it, refraining from producing a fully formed and packaged robot for the viewer to consume blindly.

But if you want to know why Silent Running truly works, then I'll tell you. It's the first and only sci-fi film that will make you weep. No, not in the sense of Star Wars where you cry for the dim-witted romanticism, but where you actually break down in tears for the emotion shown on screen. This is not a dry, academic, logical maze that you have to weave yourself through, but a journey which you experience and learn from. Notice, I could have highlighted how Silent Running was ahead of its time due to it's forward-thinking ideas about nature and how we must always try to preserve it, if really only for it's unparallelled beauty. But I didn't. At the end of the day Silent Running is a treatise on the evil that we humans do to the planet. But, ironically, what makes this one of the greatest sci-fi films of all time is that it's not about spectacular visuals or interesting, dry technology, but about being so uniquely human.

The end scene shows Lowell releasing his Garden from the space ship so the incoming Mother Ship cannot find the bodies of his murdered victims, and Lowell says to his friendly robot, in an almost Shakespearian tone, "When I was a kid, I put a note into a bottle, and it had my name and address on it. I threw the bottle into the ocean. I never knew if anyone ever found it." With that Lowell triggers a bomb, sending himself in to the light, whilst the one remaining robot tends the love of his life, his garden, which floats quietly into the netherworlds of space. Will anyone out there ever find it?

Rating: 5:
great movie, but.... : The movie is U-rated, so can someone at Amazon explain why it's listed under 'Horror'? Indeed, Amazon's categorisation of movies seems a bit muddled: I've just seen a Teletubbies movie listed along with the likes of Dawn of Dead and Cannibal Ferox. Like, ummm what's that about? A joke, maybe? Can't you guys tell the difference between one genre and the next?

Anyway, Silent Running remains a classic, if somewhat under-rated movie with a certain level of sentimentality which is justified. Go buy/rent it.

Rating: 5:
Silent Running - A great Movie : Science fiction Genre at its best, the story doesn't come second to the special effects (which are good for the time, though.)
Bruce Dern's acting is excellent and the story is as important today as was when it was made. The ironic ending shows that technology can work in harmony with nature, but humnanity mustn't forget to either.

The Dvd is in 1:85:1 widescreen ratio, and contains 1 trailer.

Rating: 4:
Worthy but inconceivable : A fleet of space ships carrying the precious cargo of Earth's plant biodiversity has been sent into space because humans have caused some sort of ecological catastrophe and no vegetation will grow there any more. At the point when the ships are somewhere in the vicinity of Saturn, they receive an order from Earth, not just to abandon the biological cargo stored in the 3 geodesic domes per ship, but to jettison and then nuke the domes and then return home. It's not clear why they had to be sent so far from Earth, why the plants couldn't have been housed in geodesic domes on Earth (since humanity is still apparently able to live there), why it was necessary to blow the domes up in addition to abandoning them or how it was possible for human life to continue on Earth in the absence of any vegetation. The crews of the ships are all eager to follow the orders and return. All except for Lowell, who is the only person in the entire crew with any sense of mission. He cares about everything but himself. The rest of the crew care about nothing but themselves. He's obviously going to have to do something drastic if any of Earth's riches are to survive. It's not at all clear how the whole crew of this space armada (apart from Lowell) could have been recruited to do a really important job that none of them care in the slightest about. Even though none of this made any sense to me whatsoever, I was still drawn in. I identified with Lowell, knew what he would have to do long before the insane order to destroy the cargo was received, shared his hopes and sorrows. Daft really. The little drones: 1, 2 and 3 he named Huey, Dewey and Lewey, even though Lewey had already been lost in space before the naming. I tired to work out why these little fellas were so endearing. They didn't even speak. They moved a bit like human toddlers. The thing was, Lowell cared about them, sympathised with them, treated them as people. Everything mattered to him. Whereas he cared about the plants and animals in his forest dome, jungle dome and desert dome, the other crew didn't care about any of it.

There's an emphatic message in the film. The scenario painted by the film is pretty incoherent but the exaggerated mindlessness of all the crew except for the one rational individual, shouted the message loud and clear so the nonsensical situation couldn't drown it out: "Some things, like our ecological environment, are vitally important and too many of us are too self-obsessed to see or care what is happening or indeed do anything to ensure that the worst doesn't happen. One person alone can't save the world in opposition to an uncaring society. It takes planning, co-operation and commitment to preserve and heal a damaged environment." Well, that's what it said to me anyway. I would have enjoyed it more if the actual story had made more sense though.

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