In the distant future, a police marshal stationed at a remote mining colony on the Jupiter moon of Io uncovers a drug-smuggling conspiracy, and gets no help from the populace when he later finds himself marked for murder.
Thinking this will prevent war, the US government gives an impenetrable supercomputer total control over launching nuclear missiles. But what the computer does with the power is unimaginable to its creators.
In a future Earth barren of all flora and fauna, the planet's ecosystems exist only in large pods attached to spacecraft. When word comes in that the pods are to be jettisoned into space and destroyed, most of the crew of the Valley Forge rejoice at the prospect of going home. Not so for botanist Freeman Lowell, who loves the forest and its creatures. He kills his colleagues taking the ship deep into space. Alone on the craft with his only companions being three small robots, Lowell revels in joys of nature. When colleagues appear to "rescue" him, he realizes he has only one option available to him. Written by
Although only three "space freighters" are visible ("Valley Forge", "Berkshire", and "Sequoia"), several other freighters are mentioned in radio communications. They are "Yellowstone", "Acadia", "Blue Ridge", "Glacier" and "Mojave" (each freighter is asked to report the final jettisons of their domes). Each freighter's name refers to an American National Park or Preserve. See more »
When Lowell is driving the vehicle into the storage with the camera on the car, a cargo container on the left hand side is seen with the top lid open, but when the camera position changes, that same container is now closed. See more »
[gesturing toward a picture]
Look on the wall behind you. Look at that little girl's face. I know you've seen it. But you know what she's never going to be able to see? She's never going to be able to see the simple wonder of a leaf in her hand. Because theres not going to be any trees. Now you think about that.
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Made in the wake of both 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968; the ultimate space opera) and EASY RIDER (1969; the era's biggest 'sleeper' hit), SILENT RUNNING was given the go-ahead by the executives at Universal in an attempt to recapture the momentum of those two films who even allowed special-effects wizard Douglas Trumbull to make his directorial debut, and this with unprecedented artistic freedom.
The film is a visual treat, featuring marvelous if unassuming special effects, though Trumbull manages to keep the technology firmly under control it is all so simple but still very impressive (even more so in view of the budget). Bruce Dern is appropriately cast as the film's eco-friendly hero. Joan Baez's two songs are very much of the time, and yet add quite a lot of humanity to the 'outer space' events. The film's sets (an unused aircraft carrier conveniently converted into a spaceship!) are also notable. However, the film's most endearing elements are the two almost-human 'drones', Huey and Dewey, which contribute to some amusing and even touching interplay with Dern; they were an obvious influence on C-3P0 and R2-D2 from from the STAR WARS films.
Still, I found the film to be somewhat plodding - especially since Dern is, for most of the time, the only human being on screen. In the end, SILENT RUNNING is a pretty good film, and a deserved cult item, but not a classic in the strict sense of the word. That said, it is a whole lot better than the only other feature film Trumbull directed, the dull and overblown BRAINSTORM (1983).
Universal's SE DVD is so packed with extras, it's almost too much: even so, there's actually little repetition throughout the lengthy documentary, numerous interviews and Trumbull's and Dern's joint commentary - and, all in all, it serves as irrefutable proof of the importance and worth (as in experience-enhancing capabilities) of DVD bonus material. While I was not overwhelmed when watching the film proper, after going through the mass of supplements on offer here I had a new-found admiration for what Trumbull intended - and actually makes me look forward to a more open-minded second viewing!
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