A soldier from Earth crash-lands on an alien world after sustaining battle damage. Eventually he encounters another survivor, but from the enemy species he was fighting; they band together ... See full summary »
Louis Gossett Jr.,
In a futuristic city sharply divided between the working class and the city planners, the son of the city's mastermind falls in love with a working class prophet who predicts the coming of a savior to mediate their differences.
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
In an interview with Starlog magazine in the late 1970s, Douglas Trumbull revealed that the plot of the movie in the original version of the script was quite a bit different from what was actually filmed. In this version, the Space Freighters were on permanent duty carrying biological domes. When they're finally told to blow the domes and return to earth, it is because the freighters are going to be scrapped. The Freeman Lowell character in this version was an older, more curmudgeonly man who simply doesn't want to return to earth and forced into retirement, so he steals the Valley Forge, "Shoots the rapids" through Saturn's Rings to make it look like his ship is destroyed, and heads off into deep space. As in the filmed version, he reprograms the robots for some companionship, and the subplot involving the plants dying due to a lack of light were involved, but his main interest in the plants was simply as a means of extending his limited food supplies on the ship. In the second half of the film, he receives a signal which he realizes is from an alien ship passing through the solar system, and decides to approach it - humanity's first contact with aliens - around the same time, his superiors on earth have realized what he did, and are trying to re-capture the ship. The last act of the movie was to have been a race against time, with Lowell trying to contact the aliens, and the recovery force trying to re-take the ship. Finally, in desperation, Lowell detaches one of the domes with one of the robots aboard only seconds before he's killed by the forces that have boarded the Valley Forge. The dome drifts off into deep space, where it's spotted by the as-yet-unseen aliens, who board it and find the robot. The robot, unsure what to do, pulls out a snapshot of itself, the other two robots, and Freeman Lowell taken earlier in the film, a "Family Portrait" after a fashion, and shows it to the aliens, who look at it and the robot confusedly, and there the film ends. See more »
Right after Lowell kills Keenan, Keenan visibly breathes with his chest still rising and falling. See more »
Just sit down and shut up! Sit down, sit down, sit down! Shut up and leave me alone, all of you. Let me eat.
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Universal Studios funded several low-budget productions in the early seventies. By far the best to come out of this program was 'Silent Running', an ecologically-minded 'message film' that stands out today as one of the truly great films of the science-fiction genre.
Bruce Dern stars as Freeman Lowell, a futuristic Park Ranger minding Earth's last forests, sealed in gigantic domes aboard an equally gigantic freighter in space. When ordered to destroy the domes and return home, Lowell is forced to choose between his crewmates and his beloved forests.
The motif of a polluted, or simply, homogenized Earth, the ultimate triumph of human progress over nature and wilderness, is a standard theme of science fiction in the 20th century, and the film is not too different from many other films and episodic television programs seen since the postwar period. Rarely, however, has the theme been explored from the point of view of ecological ethics. The storyline is kept deliberately simple, and asks not the question 'How Would You Act In Such A Position', it merely shows how one particular man might. The characters are given seminal, yet subtle opportunities to flesh themselves out (comments made during meals and card games are particularly noteworthy), and even if the character of Lowell is ultimately dislikeable, he remains oddly sympathetic. Dern produces a remarkable performance here, as a tortured, perhaps even mentally-ill, loner. His work here is still fresh and understated and certainly not of the over-the-top calibre, despite the insistances of some.
The film possesses truly amazing visual images, from the spacecraft itself (the decommissioned and soon-to-be-scrapped aircraft carrier Valley Forge) to the domes (an aircraft hanger at Van Nuys Airport) to the unforgettable Drones, uncanny little robots designed around the amputee-actors that give them life. Visual effects are excellent, the direct prototypes of even more fantastical films to come. The music, composed for the film by Peter Schickele (known internationally as P.D.Q. Bach), is by turns boldly triumphant, softly mournful, and is quite effective; some viewers may hate the vocal work of Joan Baez, but she is a logical choice for this production and time period.
While many films have suffered since the release of 'Star Wars'(which is NOT, strictly speaking, science-fiction) due to dated visuals and obsolete effects technology, 'Silent Running' is still startlingly clean and visionary. A worthy film for all science-fiction fans to see.
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