The Quiet Earth (1985) / Sci Fi-Drama
MPAA Rated: R for graphic nudity, some sexuality, violence, and language
Running Time: 91 min.
Cast: Bruno Lawrence, Alison Routledge, Peter Smith
Director: Geoff Murphy
Screenplay: Bill Baer, Bruno Lawrence, Sam Pillsbury (based on the novel by Craig Harrison)
Review published September 2, 2015
In Auckland, New Zealand, computer engineer Zac Hobson (Lawrence, The Efficiency Expert) wakes up only to find himself seemingly the only person on the planet, thinking perhaps he may be responsible due to his participation in a highly classified global energy project. dubbed Project Flashlight. On his own, loneliness, and perhaps a bit of madness, sets in, as he finds new and interesting ways to try to entertain himself in an Earth that has no one else to be with. He soon discovers he's not as alone as originally thought when he meets Joanne (Routledge, Her Majesty), a spirited young woman who is also happy to find someone else exists, and the two form a friendship that leads to more. A third party joins the group when they encounter a Maori man named Api (Smith, The Piano), and Joanne embraces an open love triangle among themselves, though the men would rather not.
The Quiet Earth is a cult classic for some, but generally a mixed bag for most viewers, that starts with a premise that doesn't make a great deal of sense, but it's fascinating to see unfold, that you're willing to just ignore the murky science involved with trying to explain the disappearance of nearly all non-flora life on Earth for the sake of the overall enjoyment of seeing one man do some interesting/crazy things thinking he's actually the only person on the planet, including cross-dress, raze buildings, and desecrate a church looking for God and finding nothing.
Unfortunately, those things you didn't quite understand do end up actually mattering in the film, as the climax involves trying to keep things from happening again, leading to a confusing build-up to a climax that doesn't quite satisfy as well. In some ways, it's a bit of a precursor to the TV show, "LOST", with less people and out in open Earth instead of an island of mysterious location. Are they the only survivors? Are they really dead and this is purgatory? Did they get transported to an Earth in an alternate dimension? Such things make for interesting theories that the film doesn't really answer for you fully.
As far as the execution, the shots of an unpopulated Auckland are quite remarkable, especially in how people just disappeared in an instant, and vehicles continued to go on their trajectory only to crash without a person to steer them any longer. Zac encountering a downed airplane in the middle of town is a particular highlight for the scale and feel of chaotic destruction. With a good central concept, adapted from the 1981 book by fellow kiwi Craig Harrison, a fantastic score from John Charles (Racing with the Moon, Goodbye Pork Pie), and a strong central performance by Bruno Lawrence, who co-wrote the script, The Quiet Earth merits watching, even if the film seems more interesting before Api appears on the screen. It's a confusing film in some parts, which may meet with dissatisfaction with some viewers, but done with enough intelligence and style to make it one worth wrestling conclusions over
©2015 Vince Leo