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The Quiet Earth
New Zealand 1985
Directed by Geoff Murphy
Running time 91 minutes
Rated M
2.5 stars


Given that this post-apocalyptic sci-fi adventure-romance is hardly working with a Hollywood-sized budget it is a surprisingly good-looking film. Judicious use has been made of locations and the purpose-built sets are seamlessly integrated into the film’s architecture. What lets it down is its script and casting. For the first half of the film this is not an issue as it largely involves Bruno Lawrence wandering around a deserted world much as did Charlton Heston in The Omega Man (1971). Of course this situation must change  but rather than a horde of light-fearing ghouls, The Quiet Earth gives us a pretty maid, Joanne (Alison Routledge) and later, a Maori male (Pete Smith) with a dangling earring. Things start to go downhill once the talking starts. 

As an actor Bruno Lawrence is reliably good as a working class type but he hardly convinces as research scientist. For their part, Routledge and Smith do little more than say their lines. And these are not good. Firstly there is a distinct problem in that Lawrence’s Zac Hobson is both a survivor AND someone who worked on the project that caused the disaster that removed all living creatures. The film never addresses this “what are the odds” coincidence. It does, however, give occasion for a lot of B-grade exposition and staring at now-antiquated computer screens with meaningless squares on them. Also whilst the 2 men (one black, one white) and a woman scenario is not only too obviously contrived, the supposed sexual tension issue that stems from the triangulation is feeble. Indeed , this is so dramatically simplistic that it feels like a kid's movie  (on which level it would be very good) that somehow ended up with adult actors (and thus is not). Murphy subsequently went to Hollywood but the great promise of this film did not bear fruit and he worked a director-for-hire on films such as Young Guns II, Under Siege 2 and various TV projects. BH

DVD Extras: Audio Commentary with writer-producer Sam Pillsbury; Theatrical trailer

Available from: Umbrella Entertainment

 

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