If you’re a fan of Duncan Jones’s critically acclaimed 2009 feature debut Moon, then here’s a chance to find out the inspiration behind that quirky sci-fi. Silent Running, directed by special effects wizard Douglas Trumbull (he did 2001: A Space Odyssey, Blade Runner and most recently, Terrence Malick’s Tree of Life) is a 1972 film boasting a strong environmental message, thanks to an intelligent script from The Deer Hunter scribes Michael Cimino and Deric Washburn and future Hill Street Blues creator Steven Bochco.
In a future where all plant life on Earth is now extinct, a fleet of space freighters orbit around Saturn with the few remaining specimens housed inside gigantic domes. Bruce Dern plays Freeman Lowell, a botanist responsible for looking after Earth’s last forests until the planet can become suitable again for reforestation. But when he and his three colleagues (one of whom is a youthful Ron Rifkin from TV’s Brothers & Sisters) receive orders to destroy the domes for commercial reasons, Lowell turns eco-warrior and, with the help of three very cute robotic drones, hijacks one of the domes and flees into deep space like some futuristic Noah.
Silent Running, like Jones’ Moon, is about one man’s personal journey through the darkness and solitude of space. It might be set in the future and in space, but it’s the environmental message that is at its heart – bolstered by some suitably apt folk tunes sung by renowned activist Joan Baez. With climate change topping the environmental agenda today, this deeply moving, sentimental paean to the green cause is just as important now as it was when the film was first released. As such, it’s a film that deserves to reach a new generation of audience.
The Masters of Cinema Series 40th anniversary blu-ray release is simply stunning. Trumbull’s amazing effects and massive props look fantastic – you can see how much love and labour has gone into creating the freighters and domes. Apart from the pristine transfer, there’s also a host of extras that sci-fi buffs won’t want to miss – including a 1972 on-set making of documentary, commentary and videos with Trumbull and Dern, original trailer and collector’s booklet.