In a future with too many people, in a world without hope or food to feed them, there’s only one solution.
Soylent Green is one of two live action science fiction movie classics that were released in 1973, the other was Westworld, and of the two this one was much better, with a more interesting story and how it is depicted. Both films were low budget B movies that did better than was expected and resonated with genre fans, becoming, and still recognized as cult classics to this day over 40 years later.
This film is a grim, pessimistic, prediction of a future that might result if we continue on our present path of ignoring the warnings of climate change, over population, and class division that are part of our world today. A warning we have ignored since before this movie was made.
It depicts a grim, claustrophobic world of wall to wall people. A world where all the things we take for granted , things like fresh water, trees, parks, forests, open areas and countryside, along with oceans and pristine shorelines no longer exist, it is a depressing notion from a depressing movie, that at its core, is about human nature and how we show a real talent for destruction while remaining apathetic about taking action towards solutions.
This classic has a great cast ineluding Edward G. Robinson in his last movie role as the charming elderly Solomon Roth, a retired professor, and a relic of times gone by who still remembers the world that people have destroyed. the film stars Charlton Heston as Thorn, a cop who is investigating the murder of a wealthy man, William Simonson (Joseph Cotten), other core cast members are Simonson’s companion for hire, (referred to as furniture in the film), Shirl (Leigh Taylor-Young), His bodyguard, Tab Fielding (Chuck Conners), and Thorn’s boss, Chief Hatcher (Brock Peters).
The film quickly takes on the style and feel of film noir private eye story. It adheres to being essentially film noir because this group of characters it portrays are trapped by their needs and desires in a way that offers them no way out, or choices they might make to change their inevitable fates. There are a couple of minor subplots, for example Shirl falls in love with Thorn, but circumstances prevent anything coming of it.
This is a story of a conspiracy and a secret that is ample reason to kill in order to prevent its getting revealed,, and someone is killing anybody that might expose it. Thorn, by investigating the murder and getting closer to truth, becomes a target for murder himself. Sol learns the truth and afterward goes directly to the location of a euthanasia center and checks himself in. Thorn arrives just as he is dying, and Sol tells him what is going on.
Afterwards, Thorn follows the path of Sol’s corpse to see where it goes, and confirms what Sol told him is true. Bodies are moved in vehicles resembling garbage trucks. Thorn is shot after being discovered in the processing plant, and the movie ends without making it clear whether he survives his wounds. He is last shown telling his boss the truth of what he has learned. Since his boss is part of the conspiracy, it is implicit he does not.
In order to feed an over populated world, the companies that supply food have learned to synthesize it into edible forms of color coded edibles all with the name of soylent as a prefix, there is soylent red, soylent orange, and so on. This includes the most recent edition called Soylcnt Green which is immensely popular. So popular they can’t make enough of the stuff to meet demands. There is only one special day of the week when the green is available. Tuesday is Soylent Green day.
Of course everyone knows the secret the film reveals at the end, that Soylent Green is made from people. Ironically, people are the only solution available in a world where too many people are the problem. I still wonder every time I go by the meat section of a market if what i am looking at is really what it says it is on the label, or if the meat companies that supply our food have found another more readily available source to sell us to satisfy our carnivorous appetites?