Screen Reviews
Silent Running

Silent Running

directed by Douglas Trumbull

starring Bruce Dern, Ron Rifkin

Arrow Video

In the late 1970s, in the wake of Star Wars, Silent Running was everywhere as the second feature to the current science fiction blockbusters at the drive-in. Star Wars, Star Trek: The Motion Picture and Moonraker were all paired with Silent Running which was ironic as the film was the antithesis of the broad special effects action movies. Made in a period of cerebral science fiction in the years between 2001: A Space Odyssey and Star Wars it was far closer to Kubrick than Lucas. Silent Running is also one of the creators of the blue collar space aesthetic that was popularized by Ridley Scott in Alien (1979). The astronauts are not lantern jawed adventurers instead they are essentially space truckers, corporate sponsored wage earners who are simply doing a job, except for Bruce Dern’s Freeman Lowell. Lowell is a botanist tending to huge bio-domes of plants and animals intended to repopulate Earth who proves to be quite the anti-hero. In fact he could even be viewed as a psychopath who has zero compunction in murdering his crew mates when they are ordered to destroy the domes and return home. Once the crew is dispatched Lowell drifts through space in the surviving dome with the three robots Huey, Louie and Dewey who he bonds with more than he was able to bond with fellow humans. The plot and pacing were quite jarring in the ’70s but actually feel much more normal in today’s film climate. In fact rewatching Silent Running truly shows how influential it is as you can still see the film’s DNA encoded on contemporary films like Ad Astra, Moon, and Interstellar.

Silent Running has been restored with a gorgeous 2k scan of the original 35mm negative supervised by director Douglas Trumbull. The disc is also peppered with extras including two commentary tracks. There is a brand new audio commentary with critics Kim Newman and Barry Forshaw and an archival track by director Douglas Trumbull and actor Bruce Dern. There are also interviews and video essays to round out the appreciation of this science fiction cult classic.

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