With the world overpopulated and food running scarce, a New York cop finds himself hunted by the authorities when he starts to suspect a miraculous new good stuff is not what it seems.
Often seen as the companion piece, if not the exact negative scenario, of The Omega Man, here we have Charlton Heston in a near-future assailed by overcrowding. Adapted from the Harry Harrison novel, and set in a not-so-outrageously envisioned 21st Century, this is an effective dystopian fable because it presents a world of potential crisis. The could-happen scope that Richard Fleischer assuredly brings the material, gives it startling quality.
If our planet was too thick with people — the camera stays tight in on crowd scenes to give the idea of people physically pressing against each other — and food was running out, the rich would clamour for jars of jam, and the poor are given strange wonder foods by a disturbingly aloof government. It becomes a satire of planetary crisis, and also a play on cultural faddism. Soylent green is the new wonder food stuff that will save humanity. Or at least the downtrodden desperate for hand-outs — there is a blackly comic aside in a boom in suicide services. This being a swollen world, every human ill is in abundance from crime to disease.
Big Chuck Heston, as forthright and one-dimensional as ever, is the stern cop who smells a rat in the factory sized kitchen. There is good support from Edward G. Robinson in his final role, as the friend and researcher to Heston’s Detective Thorn, who happens upon the secret to Soylent Green. There is that obvious ‘70s art direction, but Fleischer’s green tinged photography give it an appropriately sickly look, and its relentlessly grim attitude still feels relevant. The year is 2022, replace food for oil, and you have something scarily prophetic depicted here.
A resonant film which has a speudo-cult status as everyone has seen it late one night on TV and it's never left them.