In a world where the New York is overpopulated, resources are sparse, and riots are rife, one thing is absolute: this is all down to the hot topic issue that mattered during the late 20th Century, which is the environment. Remember kids: the greenhouse effect and global warming is evil! This is the year of 2022 where civilisation has collapsed, real food is reserved for the rich and the masses only high-nutrient sources, mass-produced by the Soylent Corporation. Detective Thorn is someone who plays by his own rules and does his best to get whatever he can for himself or for his good friend Sol Roth. After called in to investigate the murder of a businessman, Thorn discovers that this man is associated with Soylent, and as he goes farther down the rabbit hole, he discovers the “truth” about Soylent (which was really no surprise).
Soylent Green is a film famous for its iconic ending, though the film is so much more than that. It offers a really intriguing detective story that is intelligent, thought-provoking, and engaging, plus it offers a fascinating vision of a desolate future akin to films like Blade Runner. We see that the poor are left to nothing to do but to make do with what’s there whilst the rich get enjoy their privileges. It may not be much of a revelation, but this concept is pulled off in a convincing manner. It also shows how corporations and the products we buy from them are not what they seem, and the revelation of the true secret of Soylent Green is effective. This plot device would famously be recycled 12 years later with the famous Doctor Who episode Revelation of the Daleks, and if you don’t know what I mean by that, watch both this and that episode and you’ll see what I mean.
While it is true that there is a lack of action (a common complaint among audiences), but that was not what the film was meant to be, instead going into the realms of being a thriller. Throughout, we follow the character of Thorn, who is a man of authority, yet is out to get what he can and taking full advantage of others in order to make his home life tolerable for both himself and for his good friend Roth. That core dynamic is the true heart of the film, is what helps us connect with it on an emotional level, and both Charlton Heston and Edward G. Robinson (in his final film role) gave excellent performances.
Soylent Green is a fascinating viewpoint of a dystopian future where people are struggling to get by thanks to economy and global warming. This won’t be everyone’s taste (some might get bored with it), but the narrative helps carry the film all the way to a great conclusion and the performances by Heston and G. Robinson are legendary and worthy of praise.
Dir: Richard Fleischer
Scr: Stanley R. Greenberg
Cast: Charlton Heston, Leigh Taylor-Young, Edward G. Robinson, Chuck Connors, Joseph Cotten, Brock Peters, Paula Kelly
Prd: Walter Seltzer, Russell Thacher
DOP: Richard H. Kline
Music: Fred Myrow
Run time: 97 mins
Soylent Green is out now on DVD and blu-ray