Soylent Green (Richard Fleischer, 1973, USA)

Soylent Green is a dystopian science fiction from 1973, directed by Richard Fleischer. Fleischer had an extensive career in Hollywood, directing many big-budget "tentpole" projects. This particular project was based on a 1966 novel called Make Room! Make Room! and stars Charlton Heston. Heston plays an NYPD detective in the year 2022 named Robert Thorn, who shares an apartment with police analyst Sol Roth (Edgar G. Robinson). Due to combined catastrophes of climate, pollution, and overpopulation, most of the world's population - including NYC - lives in squalor. The title of the film comes from the "Soylent" wafers that the poor subsist on for their nutrition.

Despite its ambitious premise, Soylent mainly follows the structure of a detective procedural, with Thorn attempting to resolve a mysterious murder and meanwhile becoming entangled with a "furniture" woman (the rich in this world have concubines called "furniture"). Much like the revelation at the end of Planet of the Apes, another dystopian science fiction film starring Charlton Heston, the film's ending has often been parodied - so much so that people who have never seen this film know Heston's famous quote ("Soylent Green is people!"). The product has even lent its name to an actual nutritional supplement.

Edgar G. Robinson as Thorn's elderly sidekick is the highlight of the film. It was Robinson's last film, and there is a moving scene where Roth is euthanized. Thorn watches on as Roth watches in surround a video of beauty and the natural world. Heston as Thorn is a rather unlikeable protagonist, who does not garner much sympathy. Soylent Green is perhaps more interesting for the ideas it presents about the future (our current year) than the execution, although the action sequences are delivered with toughness and bruteness that makes them exciting to watch - even if they are sometimes clumsy.



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