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212 of 231 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Ecological sci-fi that even this conservative can embrace
Hailed by some as one of the best science-fiction movies of the 1970s, Silent Running is a quirky, unique movie that conveys a serious ecological message in an unforgettable manner. To be honest, I had never heard of this movie before, but the premise of the film intrigued me, as did the knowledge that a prominent special effects man for 2001: A Space Odyssey, Douglas...
Published on October 26, 2003 by Daniel Jolley

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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Classic SciFi tale revealing the inside of man's mind
It's many years in the future. Though the earth maintains a constant 75 degrees there are no forests left. The only place to find a forest is in space, in bio-domes attached to spaceships protecting them. After six months into this experimental effort to save the forests, the Valley Forge and her sister ships are ordered to abandon and nuclear-destruct the forests,...
Published on December 6, 2008 by Schtinky


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212 of 231 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Ecological sci-fi that even this conservative can embrace, October 26, 2003
This review is from: Silent Running (DVD)
Hailed by some as one of the best science-fiction movies of the 1970s, Silent Running is a quirky, unique movie that conveys a serious ecological message in an unforgettable manner. To be honest, I had never heard of this movie before, but the premise of the film intrigued me, as did the knowledge that a prominent special effects man for 2001: A Space Odyssey, Douglas Trumbull, directed it. Almost despite itself, the movie moved me in places, and I ended up quite enjoying it, even though there are many things about it I didn't particularly like. Many would consider this a boring movie, I am sure, as there are no fierce battles fought or alien beings threatening to destroy mankind. Silent Running is a thinking man's science-fiction film that succeeds or fails on its compelling storyline alone.
The story takes place some time in earth's near future, at a time when all plant life has been destroyed on the planet in some unexplained way; America's last forest land still exists, however - millions of miles out in space on board the Valley Forge. The ship carries along several huge geodesic domes filled with trees, flowers, garden plants, etc., along with much of the animal life that goes with them. A crew of four mans the ship, with the help of a number of mechanical drones, but only one, Freeman Lowell (Bruce Dern) really cares about the forests in his care. We first meet the other three crew members racing willy-nilly around the ship in jeep like go-carts, thinking nothing of trampling a bunch of flowers or taking shortcuts through the grass. In person, they are even less likeable, making fun of Lowell's idealism and basically harrumphing on their own belief that the forests have no importance whatsoever. Lowell himself starts off on the wrong foot, in my opinion, in terms of the audience's reaction to him. The man is a wide-eyed zealot seemingly about two steps away from madness of a dangerous kind; I agreed with everything he said about the importance of the forests, but his words are somewhat lost on the listener (and the crew) because he is simply annoying in his fanaticism. His mood doesn't improve when the crew gets word that they are to destroy the forests and return home to commercial service. Freeman can't handle such a decision, so he does what he feels he must in order to save the last vestige of earth's forests still in existence.
The second half of the film revolves solely around Freeman, as he is basically stranded in space with his forest. His only companions are (originally) three drones, and in my opinion these little robotic guys steal the show. This is a 1971 film, so the drones are by no means technologically exotic, yet these things do have their own personalities; there are a couple of especially poignant moments with the drones that I would like to have seen explored on their own terms, but this would have wandered a little too far afield from the premise of the film. The ending is actually quite touching and, perhaps more importantly, it feels right to this viewer.
There is certainly a strong undercurrent of allegory working in this storyline. Freeman's fellow crew members represent society at large; their lack of concern for the forests and dismissal of any ecological cares at all are meant to be a condemnation of contemporary society's uncaring and unthinking attitude toward ecology on the planet. Freeman is an evangelical fanatic on the subject, a voice crying in a wilderness that may not survive much longer if things continue as they are; up until the very end, he does not give up hope, though, and that is the inspirational message that stays with the viewer after the movie ends. It's a rather somber and depressing movie for the most part, yet I, who would not call myself an environmentalist of any kind, was touched both emotionally and intellectually by the film. Freeman and his crewmates represent the extreme weights on both sides of the environmentalism/commercialism scale, and it is up to us, the viewers, to find a way to balance those opposing weights on our home planet.
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62 of 67 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Imaginative, intelligently rendered sf film with a message, July 7, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Silent Running [VHS] (VHS Tape)
Douglas Trumbull, fresh from the triumph of working on the effects for "2001", directed this movie with a firm visual style and flair that is unusual for a first-time director.
Set in the far flung future aboard the spaceship "Valley Forge", Bruce Dern and three other astronauts maintain the huge vessel and the forests that it contains with the help of three ingeniously rendered robots. The robots are so convincing that they almost steal the show (I won't give away how they were done- it spoils the effect), but they remain classic depictions that are on par with Maria from "Metropolis", Robby from "Forbidden Planet" and the droids of "Star Wars".
A sad story with a surprisingly downbeat ending and a strong ecological message, "Silent Running" is a visual treat with outstanding special effects (designed and produced by Trumbull) and a very realistically-depicted "Valley Forge" spaceship. Trumbull had use of the decommissioned naval aircraft carrier "Valley Forge" before it was scrapped at the aptly-named Terminal Island facility in Long Beach, CA and he was able to modify many of it's vast interiors for use in the movie, all to good effect.
Bruce Dern turns in a great performance and this movie did much to enhance his career, as he is the lone human character for much of the film.
And about those Joan Baez ballads included in the soundtrack- you either love them or hate them. I think that they fit in fairly well and do much to convey the mood of the movie, especially after the sequence where the robots beat Bruce Dern at poker by cheating!
Several key production personnel who were involved with "Star Wars" just a couple of years later were part of the "Silent Running" crew and some of the design sensibilities set in the visual style of "Silent Running" later show up in "Star Wars".
"Silent Running" makes a perfect afternoon of sf film viewing along with the other movie directed by Douglas Trumbull- "Brainstorm".
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63 of 73 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Save the Forest, November 28, 2000
This review is from: Silent Running (DVD)
Set in the far future aboard the spaceship "Valley Forge", Bruce Dern and three fellow astronauts maintain the huge vessel and the forests that it contains with the help of three ingeniously rendered robots. The robots are so convincing that they steal the show, but they remain classic depictions that are on par with Robby from "Forbidden Planet" and the droids of "Star Wars".
This is a sad story with a strong ecological message, "Silent Running" is a visual treat with outstanding special effects and a very realistically-depicted "Valley Forge" spaceship. A production note: Trumbull had use of the decommissioned naval aircraft carrier "Valley Forge" before it was scrapped and he was able to modify many of it's vast interiors for use in the movie, all to good effect.
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31 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great 1970s dystopic..., December 14, 2001
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Echo "Echo" (Western Hemisphere) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Silent Running (DVD)
Like death and dying, there are several stages in evaluating "Silent Running" as a film. The first stage is whoa! great effects, unusual idea for a film made in the early 1970s. The second stage is the realization that you are being hit with some of the hardest propaganda since "Battleship Potempkin" or "Triumph of the Will". The final stage is nostalgia for such a ground-breaking movie with super special effects.
Bruce Dern is comfy in his role as a slowly-unraveling sociopath. What many don't realize is that the screenplay was written by a then-young Michael Cimino and Steven Bochco ("The Deer Hunter", "NYPD Blue". What's truly amazing is the use of mechanical (not visual) effects. If you've never been on an aircraft carrier, you'll believe that there is an American Airlines cargo freighter "Valley Forge". The details are wonderful: the corporate logos on the cargo pods, the technical manuals lying around, the overall believability of the wonderful drones, the background radio chatter from the other ships.
It's a shame Douglas Trumbull hasn't been more visible, this was a great effort.
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30 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ecological science fiction becomes science fact, October 8, 2000
By 
Christopher Dalton (Louisville, Kentucky) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Silent Running [VHS] (VHS Tape)
I still wonder if Universal got the idea for Earth 2 from this film? All kidding aside. Silent Running is a classic science fiction adventure that has a strong, if not serious message to it. It depicts what our future might be like in the 8th year of the 21st Century, 2008 AD, and how the human race could easily cause a worldwide outbreak of pollution. It asks the the question of what would you do if you were in astronaut Lowell's (Bruce Dern)position. I like everything about this movie. From the special effects, to costumes, to set designs, to the plot, etc. Bruce Dern plays the character of Lowell extremely well. A conflicted man who sadly goes to extremes to save the last of Earth's forests from being destroyed. And the drones Huey, Dewey, and Louie were really cool. Obviously the model for R2-D2 in The Star Wars saga, the drones had a unique personality of their own. The other characters played by Cliff Potts, Ron Rifkin, and Jesse Vint truly represent the implicit cynicism that is in our world today. People who don't care about anything anymore. Only caring about the Almighty Dollar. Douglas Trumbull did an extraordianry job directing the film. His experience as a special effects technician in both 2001 and The Andromeda Strain really shows and pays off in this wonderful film. A film that has a personality of its own. If you enjoy good science fiction, you'll enjoy this cult-classic.
Interesting trivia note-stock footage of this film was used in another science ficion cult-classic. Battlestar Galactica.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A film that couldn't be made today, November 13, 2007
By 
Terry Sofian "tsofian" (St Peters, MO United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Silent Running (DVD)
This film is a product of its era. It has effects that were state of the art in 1973, a sound track by PDQ Bach and Joan Baez and a story line about the results of guilt, loneliness and isolation, about being in a "no win" situation and having to betray yourself by action, or by inaction and the results that such a choice will have on a person.

Lots of snide comments are made about this film, and it will certainly not appeal to everyone. It is not action driven and the main conflict is internal to Dern's character. If you want a film that dwells on how pretty it can be watch something else. If you want to see action watch the first Star Wars. If you want to see a film that for a tiny budget and shot in 30 days actually has some guts to say something about how we treat our resources and how we treat ourselves; about how sometimes choices we make for love can be just as damaging to us as ones made for other reasons, how sometimes the choices we have before us lead to nowhere except our own destruction, but that maybe even with all that something "not replacable" can still be salvaged watch this film.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Classic SciFi tale revealing the inside of man's mind, December 6, 2008
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This review is from: Silent Running (DVD)
It's many years in the future. Though the earth maintains a constant 75 degrees there are no forests left. The only place to find a forest is in space, in bio-domes attached to spaceships protecting them. After six months into this experimental effort to save the forests, the Valley Forge and her sister ships are ordered to abandon and nuclear-destruct the forests, then return the spaceships to commercial service. Aboard the Valley Forge is botanist Freeman Lowell (Bruce Dern - a very young Bruce Dern) who is the only member of the four-man crew who actually cares for the forests. (He's portrayed very "hippie-ish", including wearing long canvas-type robes and longer hair than the other men) Lowell doesn't just care for the forests, he defends them and lives for them.

With orders received, when the men begin to nuclear-destruct the bio-domes, Lowell goes a little off the edge in defending his forests, and winds out killing all his crewmates. He then steers the spaceship towards an outer ring of Saturn, where the other ships can't follow. Now he's alone with his three (adorable) robots, Huey, Dewey, and Louie. (Louie is accidentally lost during the storm of Saturn's ring) With no more human contact, Lowell's glitchy behavior slowly descends into madness.

It's this major part of the film that intrigues me so. Lowell's decay is slow, but with pointedly increasing markers leading his way to full insanity. The ending is surprising but appropriate. It's said to be difficult for an actor to single handedly carry a show, but Dern manages quite impressively. The special effects are of course a bit cheesy, but while the robots are not high-tech they certainly are adorable and fill their roles in the plot nicely. Unfortunately, there are also a couple of very cheesy Joan Baez "nature" songs in the movie, you'll want to plug your ears or hit mute for those, unless you actually like the 70's "hippie-pop".

'Silent Running' is a must-see Classic SciFi film, even if it's somewhat outdated. It's not the best movie you'll ever watch but if you're a lover of SciFi you should treat yourself to some of the breakthroughs made in the SciFi film industry, 'Silent Running' being a part of that phenomenon. It's also a highly interesting study of the human condition, and how we are designed to be a "herd" mammal rather than loners. Rent first. Enjoy!
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great period piece sci-fi., February 20, 2006
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This review is from: Silent Running (DVD)
I first saw this in the theater way back when. Sci-fi has come a long way, but this movie is not without it's charms. Back then it really did seem possible that we could destroy the planet with pollution. And, there wasn't all that much sci-fi going on back in those days during the big gap between 2001 in the late Sixties and Star Wars in the mid-to-late Seventies.

Now, the reason I'm giving it five stars isn't so much that this is a great movie. It is good, but what really makes this DVD worth the relatively low price is all the extras and interviews. It's a trip back in time the viewer can learn from regardless of his/her politics when it comes to environmentalism.

Actually, the main character's willingness to kill his fellow crew members to save the trees and critters was way more disturbing to me now than it was back then.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A True Sci-Fi Masterpiece, July 25, 2000
This review is from: Silent Running [VHS] (VHS Tape)
Brilliantly acted, masterfully staged along with the best possible effects for their day (1972), and well scored, this under-appreciated gem is hauntingly beautiful and terrifying, all at the same time. Whether or not it turns out to be prophetic remains to be seen, but a good case can be made today that we are certainly well on our way to being in the condition that inspired Earth's inhabitants in this movie to send out a fleet of spaceships that carried with them the last of their forests and wildlife.
One of the biggest and best payoffs of watching this beauty is the absolutely stunning performance that Bruce Dern delivers. More often than not, Dern portrays conniving, sneaking pyschos and killers to an absolutely chilling degree, but not in this baby! Yes, there are those who would say that the character of Freeman Lowell does a slow descent into madness here, but it is ever-so slowly brought about by Dern's restrained acting that we barely notice. That is the mark of exceptional acting ability! This is by far Dern's best performance, and his supporting cast of Cliff Potts, Ron Rifkin and Jesse Vint as fellow crew members that bear varying degrees of contempt for Dern's Freeman Lowell are perfectly cast. Kudos to the exceptional actors/actresses who portray the loveable drones Huey, Dewey and Louie.
Long before Star Wars and the rest, there was Silent Running, and it holds up extremely well, despite today's seemingly constant need for faster, harder, bloodier and more violent by the second. The message contained within this movie is as applicable today as it was the first day it was released. Watch it and see for yourself; you won't regret it for a second!
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13 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best Bruce Dern movies ever made., November 11, 2005
This review is from: Silent Running (DVD)
Am a bit surprised at how many negative reviews there are for this movie. No, it isn't Star Wars and it's not a big action thriller. Rather it's a movie with a message--that we need to protect at all costs the things that are really important (the last existing forests in the world in this case). Other than another little known Bruce Dern movie (Smile), I think this is his best performance. Frankly I cringe when I see or hear Bruce Dern, so I think it says a lot for his ability as an actor to pull this off successfully. I really don't like him, but this is still a favorite movie of mine. You can't hate the character he plays in this movie because he is doing something terribly important (saving the last forests), but you don't like him either because he is fanatic and ends up killing to save the forests. I thought the music was great in this movie; very beautiful and haunting. Some didn't like it because of Joan Baez. I never liked her politics, but her voice is one of the most beautiful voices of that era. If I was stranded on a desert island with only one movie to watch, I sincerely hope that it would be this one. It is not that entertaining to younger folks raised on the computer-generated special effects found in the better science fiction movies. It will never measure up to something like the Matrix or any of the Star Wars movies, but it is still a hauntingly beautiful movie with special effects that are good enough to keep you interested. As most other reviewers have said the robots are charming. Don't listen to the bad reviews; decide for yourself. Even if you don't like the movie overall, you'll find something enjoyable here. The somewhat surprise ending is very sad, so if you want an upbeat movie, this is not the one for you, but it couldn't end any other way, really. This one gives me a tear in the eye and lump in the throat at the end every time I see it. A little campy and silly, but overall a real gem of a movie. Probably had more impact and was more impressive at the time it first came out, than now.
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Silent Running
Silent Running by Douglas Trumbull (DVD - 2002)
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