Sure, we all know the twist ending by now (so much so that's become something of a pop culture joke), but look beyond that and you'll find an absorbing, if somewhat slow moving, detective story set against an environmental apocalypse.
Based on Harry Harrison's novel "Make Room! Make Room!", the story follows New York police detective Robert Thorn (Charlton Heston) as he pursues a murder case against the backdrop of a dystopian future in which global warming and overpopulation have the planet's delicate environmental balance. As he investigates the murder of an executive of the Soylent Corporation, Thorn gets too close to some dirty governmental secrets and is eventually targeted for death himself.
Two aspects of the film really stand out, the main one being the deft handling of the environmental issues. Screenwriter Stanley Greenberg and director Richard Fleischer keep the alarmism to a minimum and in the background. This is a stark departure from the style of the other environmental scare films of the period, and it injects a welcome dose of realism to the proceedings.
Also outstanding is the swan song performance of film legend Edward G. Robinson as Thorn's mentor Sol Roth. Fighting a losing battle with cancer (he died just nine days after principal photography wrapped), Robinson invested his final role with a wonderful sensitivity.
Unlike so many of its contemporaries, "Soylent Green" is a film that has stood the test of time (just as long as you ignore that little video game scene) and is just as precient today.
Come on everybody, say it along with me: "It's people! Soylent Green is made out of people!"
Those tears Heston cries in Roth's death scene are real -- he was the only person on the set who knew Robinson was in the final stages of his bout with cancer.
"The Omega Man" (1971).
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