The Quiet Earth (Review)

August 9th, 2008 by Vomitron

The Quiet Earth (Review)   thequietearth 84x120 sci fi reviews drama Director: Geoff Murphy
Writers: Bill Baer, Bruno Lawrence & Sam Pillsbury (based on a novel by Graig Harrison)
Release year: 1985

Condemned to live

Zac Hobson wakes up to what could have been a normal day. But it’s not. His life will never be the same as he finds out he’s the only person left on this earth. What happened and where have all the people gone?

(Some spoilers follow…)

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The Quiet Earth (Review)   qe bed cr 300x225 sci fi reviews drama Right from the openingshot, where we see a naked man on his bed waking up, the viewer has no idea of what he’s in for. Much like Zac Hobson, the man on the bed. The refined nature of THE QUIET EARTH is already present in this openingscene, but the beauty is that the viewer is unaware of this. Gradually, he will learn what happened and is about to come. But first things first. Zac Hobson (Bruno Lawrence) is a scientist, and while that has nothing to do with why exactly he still is alive, it is the reason why he wakes up to be the only man left on the planet. Zac had been working on a top-secret global energy project, called Flashlight. A visit to the facility where he used to work, confirms what he feared: The project somehow went horribly wrong. To his surprise he does find somebody inside the facility: The mutilated dead body of a colleague. With triggering the security system of the building, he suddenly finds himself trapped inside. Resourceful as he is, he sets up an explosion and manages to crawl out to freedom. Freedom in a world deprived of human life.


The Quiet Earth (Review)   qe president crjpg 300x225 sci fi reviews drama After this utmost intriguing opening sequence, the movie becomes even more interesting: We are treated on the psychological effects this situation has on Zac. What would you do when you’re the last man on earth? Whatever you feel like, of course. But can you handle it? Zac starts off fine. He moves into a mansion. He just drives his car into a mall when he decides to go for a bit of decadent shopping. Starts drinking. Talking to himself. Wears women’s cloths. And, inevitably, starts losing it. In a wonderful scene we can see him declare himself president of the world – or actually God himself – while holding a speech on his balcony with his audience consisting of cardboard cut-outs of famous people (There’s Adolf Hittler, Pope Johannes, Bob Marley and Alfred Hitchcock amongst others). But the insanity doesn’t end there. He gets a hold of a shotgun and goes on a shooting spree in the city. Just add a bulldozer-type vehicle and a bit of destruction to the mix, and you just know this can’t end well.

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But just in time, he manages to get a grip on himself and starts making the best of living his life in his fancy mansion. Much like any sane person would do when being alone in the world, he repeatedly broadcasts a message through radio-signals, sharing his name and whereabouts with any potential listeners out there. He couldn’t have picked a better timing to straighten his priorities out, because it is at this moment – about halfway in the movie – Joanne (Alison Routledge) shows up on his doorstep. She proves to be a very interesting character. Youthful and naïve at first appearance, but nevertheless having an enlightened vision on mundane concepts as ‘friends’ and viewing life not like your average girl next door would. Inevitably, Zac and Joanne will become romantically and sexually entangled. But a third person, Api (Pete Smith) pops up with a past of his own. They all are happy to not be the only person alive anymore, but when Joanne begins to divide her attention between the two men, tension and irritation arises. And during all this, Zac discovers an imminent catastrophe with Project Flashlight becoming more unstable by the hour. The trio will have to work together in a desperate attempt to prevent what could be the ultimate end of the world.

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The script doesn’t really explain what exactly is Project Flashlight nor the exact nature of the madness it is causing. And that’s a good thing. Not only does it add to the mystery, it would also be futile to try and explain (to laymen) what is going on, as this is a science fiction film and the magnitude of the catastrophe, heavily flirting with quantum physics, is bigger than life. But we do get an explanation as to why Zac, Joanne and Api are still alive, and it’s a pretty intriguing one. While there are a couple of action sequences, THE QUIET EARTH doesn’t rely much on special effects and is much more a character-driven film. And that’s one of its strengths, especially because of the three-member cast being perfectly capable to carry the movie. Bruno Lawrence’s character is of course the most interesting as we follow him throughout the movie from the opening-shot onward. His character also has a lot of weight, since he’s the one partly responsible for the disaster. And after having been overcome by the loneliness and emptiness of his own existence he utters the profound words “I have been condemned to live”, which is a prime example of the quality of the dialogues handled in the script. After having seen him almost completely surrendering to insanity in the first half of the movie, we get to see him lighten up and feel alive again after meeting Joanne. Yet his burden remains and Zac stays aware of it. And this is an another ace the script has up its sleeve for the movie’s climax.

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It’s difficult to point out highlights in the movie, as every scene works without flaws – whether it’s something spectacular like Zac discovering the site of a plane crash (without any casualties left) or the smaller scenes with the characters having conversations. When it comes to the acting, the only actor that takes a bit to get used to is probably Pete Smith. Likely because of several reasons: By that point in the script, the viewer isn’t really expecting a third character to be introduced. Also, Smith’s accent is the thickest and his acting skills seem a bit more rudimentary. However, this last characteristic suits his role perfectly, as Api is a character that’s a bit rough around the edges. A lot of things work very well in THE QUIET EARTH and the triangular relationship between the characteThe Quiet Earth (Review)   qe mutilated corpse cr 300x225 sci fi reviews drama rs becomes somewhat essential to the plot later on. But it’s undoubtedly the ending that made this movie memorable for everyone who ever saw it. It has one of those rare endings that really takes the movie to a higher level, both visually as emotionally. The final shot (before the end credits start rolling) is both wonderful and impressive. It might not impress you on a technical level, but it should by the content it carries within and the meaning behind it, which is again bigger than life. Even with the movie being famous for its ending (and stills of it being widely spread over the internet) and as much as I want to, I simply can’t give it away on this page. Go to Shock Endings to reveal it (seriously: don’t click if you haven’t seen the movie!).


On an honourable sidenote, the script was co-written by actor Bruno Lawrence. This probably resulted in his character being well-developed. His contribution to the script were to be his last writing-credits, as from then on he focused more on his acting career (together with his first love: playing drums). Completely shot in New Zealand, THE QUIET EARTH to this date remains one of the best accomplishments on director Geoff Murphy’s filmography, although it’s unfortunately not his most well-known movie. The more famous films on his resumé are mostly sequels to successful films, like YOUNG GUNS, the Steven Seagal vehicle UNDER SIEGE and the very disappointing sequel to Stuart Gordon’s sci-fi/prison campfest FORTRESS (which does have Christopher Lambert reprising his role as John Brennick). But, for now, Murphy will most likely be remembered for directing Emilio Estevez, Mick Jagger and Anthony Hopkins in FREEJACK: An entertaining, over-the-top, crazy-plotted sci-fi/action movie, although if you’re not willing to fly with it, you can forget about enjoying it.

The Quiet Earth (Review)   qe bulldozer cr 300x225 sci fi reviews drama So all things considered, THE QUIET EARTH remains Murphy‘s most interesting film so far and it has rightfully developed quite a cult following along the years. Yet it still deserves wider recognition. There are more films out there that handle the theme of being the last man on earth, but I have seen none yet that was so unique in its execution.


Rating: The Quiet Earth (Review)   star sci fi reviews drama The Quiet Earth (Review)   star sci fi reviews drama The Quiet Earth (Review)   star sci fi reviews drama The Quiet Earth (Review)   star sci fi reviews drama The Quiet Earth (Review)   halfstar sci fi reviews drama



(The trailer for THE QUIET EARTH basically shows the whole movie, including massive plot-spoilers in the process. Even the original poster art will make you frown. So, that’s why we didn’t include these on this page. We did feature it in our Shock Endings section for those of you who have seen the movie or just want to check it out anyway)


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