Silent Running

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Silent Running DVD

Silent Running is a science fiction movie made in 1972, directed by Douglas Trumbull and starring Bruce Dern as the protagonist Freeman Lowell. It was made with a very limited budget but has since achieved a cult following.

The movie depicts a dystopian future, in which all plant life on Earth is extinct and only a few specimens have been preserved in greenhouse-like domes attached to a fleet of three American Airlines "Space Freighters" positioned just outside of the orbit of Mars. Lowell, a crew member aboard one of these ships, the "Valley Forge", is in constant disagreement with his other, human crewmates, who are anxious to return to a bleak and deforested yet familiar Earth. However, Lowell does have a better relationship with humanlike drones who are also aboard the ships.

The science and technology depicted in Silent Running are not always plausible, and Trumbull's special effects are low quality even by the standards of the time (he had a larger budget in his later film Blade Runner), but the melancholy message is powerful.

The soundtrack songs are performed by Joan Baez and the film score was composed by Peter Schickele.

When orders come from Earth to jettison the domes that contain the plants, blow each of them up via nuclear explosions and return, Freeman Lowell decides it is his mission to save the plants on his ship, the "Valley Forge." Each ship carries six domes. When one of his crewmates comes to set a bomb in Lowell's forest, Lowell strangles him with the handle of his shovel. In the struggle Lowell's right leg is injured. He then traps the other two crewmates in one of the domes that is about to be jettisoned, and they are killed when Lowell releases the dome and blows it up. Lowell then overrides the programming of the service drones so they can perform surgery on his leg, and renames them Huey, Dewey and Louie.

They fly through the rings of Saturn. The three drones are outside the ship; Louie's leg gets stuck and he is ultimately blown away from the ship due to the turbulence of the rings. Huey is badly damaged in an accident when Lowell runs into it with one of the ships buggies. After almost a year alone in space, the radio again begins chattering - "Valley Forge, this is Berkshire." Lowell realizes that his crime is soon to be discovered by a rescue spacecraft, and not only will he face imprisonment or worse, the dome will be destroyed after all. Lowell chooses to leave Dewey in charge of the last dome, jettison it to safety, and destroy himself and the "Valley Forge" with the last of the onboard nuclear weapons. The final, ostensibly poignant scene is of the forest greenhouse tended by the sole remaining robot, with a battered watering can.


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