Soylent Green (1973): Classic Review

When I was a kid, my mom used to tell me and my brother about a film that she saw when she was younger. She always told us about this movie, I believe, because it had a huge impact on her at the time that she saw it. She never quite forgot about it. The film was Soylent Green, starring Charlton Heston, a sci-fi movie loosely based on the book Make Room! Make Room!by Harry Harrelson. It took me a while to hunt it down, but I finally managed to do it with the help of my friend Mae. So thank you, Mae.

The year is 2022, and society is in disarray. The streets are overpopulated with poor people and shelter is so scarce that people pile up on stairs to get any form of rest. Food and water is limited and meat, fruits and vegetables are luxuries reserved only for the truly rich and powerful. The masses, on the other hand, are relegated to biscuits rationed by the Soylent Corporation. When Simonson (Joseph Cotten), a member of the Soylent Corporation is assassinated in his home with no traces of struggle, Detective Thorne (Heston) and his aged assistant Sol (Edward G. Robinson) get on the case and find out that the murder is the least of their problems as they uncover evidence so shocking that Thorne becomes the target of the people who killed Simonson.

For a movie that was produced way before I was born, I should say that Soylent Green has a lot going for it. The shock value is still there, as some of the scenes in the movie will already ring true for some such as rampant criminality, corruption in the police force, and poverty. With what’s happening right now, there is a possibility that the things that are depicted in the  movie would come to fruition and that is a scary thought. The fact that people can be treated as commodities or they can be scooped up (I mean this literally, there are contruction vehicles used to scoop up people) like animals, that people are thrown away to God knows where without anybody even asking — the possibility that they could be desensitized to death and dispose of the corpses as if they are mere garbage — this is so depressing. And the huge chunk of their actions owe to the fact that none of these people ever knew beauty as we know it. During the time they were born, there were no longer meadows, or forests, or beautiful oceans, animals or any of the things that we take for granted. Just think, if we are not careful, this fate could befall future generations if all the resources of today are not conserved.

Storywise, well, at the time it was released, I could understand why my mom was so shocked. Now, not so much, espcially for a dystopian set up in which the story revolved. Anything is possible in a society living in desperation. Effects wise, it was not so bad and giving consideration that it was done in 1973, I could go so far to say as it was great. The blood was a bit too crimson for me but that’s a minor detail.

The standout performer for me for this movie was Sol. When Sol speaks of the world he knew before chaos ensued, his sadness transcends the screen. When he looks at Thorne with love (they are like father and son), or when he looks for a reaction when Thorne tastes meat for the first time, it just broke my heart. Charlton Heston, the only actor I knew from any other film I’ve watched, was great as the jaded Thorne. At first, I wasn’t feeling his character because he was always sweaty (the temperature outside was always over 90 in this movie due to the greenhouse effect) and he was quite abrasive, but later on as the story progressed, I found it in my heart to like him, especially when he delivered his classic line in the end.

All in all, I’m glad I saw this film. While the designs and the technologies used in this film was not reflective of its state today (we are only 10 years away from 2022), I should say that there was a great effort on the part of the filmmakers to makethe setting different from America in the 70s. Soylent Green is a real classic that also comes with a huge caveat for humankind to cherish their resources and to act with care as this bleak future is possible if we are not careful. Another moral: Be careful what you eat. I’ll leave you to figure that one out for yourself if you have not yet seen the film.