Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Film Review: SILENT RUNNING (1972)

Silent Running - poster Director: Douglas Trumbull
Writers: Deric Washburn, Michael Cimino, Steven Bochco
Running time: 89 mins (approx)
Certification (UK): U

Genre: Adventure/Drama/Sci-Fi
USA Release date: 10th March 1972

Watched on Sky+ Wednesday 26th December 2012.


I have seen this film a few times before but I guess I never really appreciated just what a technical achievement it was until recently. One of my favourite critics here in the UK, Mark Kermode, is always going on about how good this is and so I decided to give it another look when it came up on TV recently. Here’s a very brief summary before I give you my thoughts.

Silent Running - 7 After some catastrophe on Earth (we are never told what), all of what’s left of the flora and fauna is blasted into space in a collection of geo-domes aboard three huge cargo ships. We concentrate on one ship, the ‘Valley Forge’, and on one crew-member in particular, Freeman Lowell (Bruce Dern). Whereas he embraces the wildlife and the plants; to the other crew members; John Keenan (Cliff Potts), Marty Barker (Ron Rifkin) and Andy Wolf (Jesse Vint), it’s just a job. One day word comes that the domes are to be destroyed and the ships returned to commercial use. This is devastating news for Lowell but the others can’t wait to get back to a more lucrative lifestyle. He knows he must try to save what he can… But at what cost?... I’ll leave it there so I don’t give too much away.

Silent Running - 4 If you remember that this film was made with no CGI then you might just appreciate just what a technical achievement it was. There are an awful lot of shots from outside the various spaceships and they all look quite believable. As far as the narrative goes, well yes, it’s all a bit ‘tree hugging’ in places, but still, for its time, a pretty well thought out piece. Bruce Dern does a great job as Lowell; the whole thing lives or dies on his performance and I thought he did an excellent job! I know it may not be to everyone’s taste, but I for one enjoyed it.

SteelMonster’s verdict: RECOMMENDED

My score: 8.2/10

IMDb Score: 6.7/10 (based on 12,109 votes at the time of going to press).

MetaScore: No Data: (Based on 0 critic reviews provided by at the time of going to press).

Silent Running - 5 Rotten Tomatoes ‘Tomatometer’ Score: 65/100 (based on 26 reviews counted at the time of going to press).

Rotten Tomatoes ‘Audience’ Score: 54/100 ‘Want to see’ (based on 8,192 user ratings counted at the time of going to press).

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Anderson: On this first day of a new century we humbly beg forgiveness and dedicate these last forests of our once beautiful nation to the hope that they will one day return and grace our foul earth. Until that day may God bless these gardens and the brave men who care for them.

Freeman Lowell: It calls back a time when there were flowers all over the Earth... and there were valleys. And there were plains of tall green grass that you could lie down in - you could go to sleep in. And there were blue skies, and there was fresh air... and there were things growing all over the place, not just in some domed enclosures blasted some millions of miles out in to space.

Silent Running - 2 Freeman Lowell: On Earth, everywhere you go, the temperature is 75 degrees. Everything is the same; all the people are exactly the same. Now what kind of life is that?

Freeman Lowell: [following other astronauts carrying out orders to destroy the forests] Hey, wait a minute, wait a minute... I don't think you guys understand what this means, please don't blow up the domes.
Andy Wolf: [laughing] Which ones going first?
Marty Barker: Let’s hit four first.
Freeman Lowell: But they're not disposable!
John Keenan: We don't have any choice Lowell.
Freeman Lowell: [pleading] But they're not replaceable!

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