Douglass Trumbull’s eco-heavy film, “Silent Running” has a lot of extravagant special-effects, excluding the circular super-imposed orange of the explosion (you know what I’m talking about), and a character actor that is pivotal to the movies success. The main character, Freeman Lowell, played by Bruce Dern, is a poignant and hippy character of the future: Bruce Dern’s performance is amazing, no hyperbole involved. At the beginning, the ship-mates argue against Lowell about the merits of the Forrest, and he always chimes back with a teary-eyed response, some irrefutable, “Isn’t it sad that a child won’t know the simple wonder of a leaf in the palm of their hand?”
The feature-length story involves Lowell and his desire to save the last remaining forests that are stocked behind domed-glass in space. We must assume that earth cannot sustain an ecosystem any longer; how they survive without this is illogical, nonetheless does create an emotional story. At times, it does seem a little stretched out. It drags in the middle, as little happens except talking between the Androids and little conversation between the receiver and the boys back at home; once again illogical to be talking in real-time from such spatial-distance.
The method Lowell uses to gain control of the forest seems beyond his loving ideology: but one must sacrifice for the better good. He kills off the other engineers on the space-carrier, and does it very ‘economically’, by shutting the doors while they blow up one of his forest’s. With the other engineer elsewhere, he must confront violently, and is injured in the process. He can have medical attention, though, and was the medical-expert for the engineers before the order to destroy the forest came about. We are never really given a reason why they want to destroy them: What would be the reason to destroy plant-life? Fuel capacity? Speed of the space carrier?
The message isn’t always clear either. Like when the always-Eco minded Lowell begins eating the synthetic-food. He stops, but what is being said here? That when their is no bad guy, you have no way to base the ways of the ‘good guy’ upon? The character is poetic, yet exhausting, but Bruce Dern is always in the right colors with a masterful performance. Despite the errors of the film, Douglass Turnbull, part of the special-effects behind 2001: A Space Odyssey, is a master with imagery, and the shots of the transparent domes filled with greenery are awe-inspiring.