This is one of those movies that comes up when people discuss science fiction films of the 1970s. Lately I’ve seen some good reviews of it, some people even putting in their top five sci-fi films of all time. Now that gets my attention. So when it appeared on Netflix download, I had to check it out.
Freeman Lowell (Bruce Dern) is an astronaut aboard the space ship Valley Forge. His mission for the past eight years was maintaining the flora and fauna preserved from earth inside of giant domes attached to the ship. Earth has lost all of its natural resources, and only on a fleet of ships like this have they been retained. The objective was to return them to earth when the planet was cleaned up and ready to have life on it.
Unfortunately orders come up to jettison and detonate all the domes and return to earth. No reason is given. But none is needed. Lowell can’t and won’t let that happen. He disobeys his orders and manages to save one dome, even if the rest of the crew has to die in the process. Now Lowell is stranded in space with his three robot pals and trying his best to keep life in the dome going strong. But will Lowell be able to maintain his Silent Running or is he a doomed man.
- Some brilliant model work and visual effects for the era
- Impressive production design giving the ship a lived in appearance
- Contains some pretty intense moments in it
- Bruce Dern seems to be just a little too intense to be likable
- Those musical montages with Joan Baez singing… um, yeah…
- The message gets in the way of the movie
Visually this movie is really something else. I love the designs and execution of the ships, the robots, the interiors, everything. Obviously the film went on to influence other science fiction films afterward. But the heavy-handed approach to the material ends up hurting the end result. Bruce Dern often looks a couple fries short of a happy meal, keeping me from connecting to him and being more afraid for what he’s going to do next. The musical montages and the lack of explanation of certain key events pulled me out of the story. In the end, I can see why some folks might connect to this more than I did, but it is worth checking out.
Scores (out of 5)