Silent Running Review
By Christopher Null
Bizarre to the point of cult classicality, Douglas Trumbull's Silent Running is often so bad it's good but never quite so good that you forget (and forgive) those missteps.
Starring Bruce Dern, the film takes place in the far future, after Earth has wiped out its ecosystem and has sent its forests into space aboard enormous greenhouse spaceships. All is well until the order comes in to blow up the greenhouse and return to earth, which drives ultra-greenie Freeman Lowell (Dern) to desperate measures -- namely, killing off his crewmates and trying to escape undetected with the ship into deep space.
With no one but his miniscule "drone" robot companions, Dern is oddly at home in the blackness of space... until his superiors catch up with him.
With a script from both Steven Bochco and Michael Cimino (then known as Steve and Mike), expecting high art from Silent Running is a little like watching Baywatch for the moral dilemmas the characters face. The effects are hokey, and songs from Joan Baez borders on chalkboard-grating, to the point where I had to simply shut the DVD off during the closing credits.
At the same time, there's something oddly appealing about the film, and Dern's crisis of conscience and subsequent stir-craziness make for a compelling story. The ending is expected, but satisfying.
Now on DVD, Silent Running is given a plethora of extras to satisfy its many fans (but which casual viewers will want to skip immediately). A handful of making-of documentaries dot the disk, and director Trumbull and star Dern reconvene for a snoozy commentary track as well.
Facts and Figures
In Theaters: Friday 10th March 1972
Distributed by: MCA Universal Home Video
Production compaines: Universal Pictures, Trumbull/Gruskoff Productions
Rotten Tomatoes: 67%
Fresh: 18 Rotten: 9
Cast & Crew