Silent Running

1972, Douglas Trumbull, USA

Director: Douglas Trumbull
Producer: Michael Gruskoff
Screenplay: Deric Washburn,
  Mike Cimino, Steve Bochco
Cinematography: Charles F. Wheeler
Editor: Aaron Stell
Music: Peter Schickele
Bruce Dern (Freeman Lowell)
Cliff Potts (John Keenan)
Ron Rifkin (Marty Barker)
Jesse Vint (Andy Wolf)
Mark Persons (grey Drone # 1 ‘Dewey’)
Steven Brown (orange Drone # 2 ‘Huey’)
Larry Whisenhunt (green Drone # 3 ‘Louie’)


Rating: PG violence Runtime: 86 minutes

The directorial debut of special effects pioneer Douglas Trumbull (1942-2022), Silent Running is the cautionary tale of a botanist of the future, trying to save the last of Earth’s plant and animal life in his domed greenhouse spaceships.  Using visual techniques that he developed for Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, Trumbull created a series of futuristic set pieces that predicted the big-budget sci-fi epics of the next decades, while telling a personal story of environmental activism.

Working with a script by Michael Cimino (The Deer Hunter) and Steven Bochco (Hill Street Blues), counter-culture actor Bruce Dern gives one of his most subtle performances.  His space gardener goes to extremes to defend what he loves, and then deals with the grim consequences, including the loneliness of space and the realisation that mankind is unable to do the right thing.

Trumbull, who had just finished working on Andromeda Strain, would go on to create effects for Close Encounters, Star Trek, and Blade Runner (he turned down Star Wars). But he would only direct one other feature, the ill-fated Brainstorm (Natalie Wood died during filming).  Still, although it’s a product of its time (Joan Baez songs fill the soundtrack), the reputation of Silent Running has grown to near classic status, and its environmental message more relevant today than ever.

“A visually stunning and heartfelt riposte to the emotional sterility of Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey…” Mark Kermode, BFI Film Classics


Apr 15 2024


6:15 pm - 7:45 pm