Movie review of “The Quiet Earth”: This often startling, newly restored 1985 science-fiction classic from New Zealand is a tale of the last three humans on Earth and the unnerving tensions that bubble up between them. Rating: 3.5 stars out of 4.
Not every apocalypse involves zombies or vampires. “The Quiet Earth,” a newly restored 1985 New Zealand science-fiction classic, makes a good case that the real threat to survivors after global catastrophe would be our own worst impulses.
Loosely based on Craig Harrison’s 1981 novel, “The Quiet Earth” is most visually startling in its first half, when the screenwriters and director Geoffrey Murphy go to impressive — even bold — lengths to illustrate what the world would look like if most people suddenly disappeared.
Zac Hobson (Bruno Lawrence), a scientist who believes he’s the last person alive, finds streets deserted and half-eaten meals on tables.
Movie Review ★★★½
‘The Quiet Earth,’ with Bruno Lawrence, Alison Routledge, Peter Smith. Directed by Geoffrey Murphy, from a screenplay by Lawrence, Bill Baer and Sam Pillsbury, based on a novel by Craig Harrison. 91 minutes. Rated R for sexuality. Grand Illusion, through Thursday.
An audience expects all that, but not the breathtaking aftermath of an empty passenger jet’s collision with a city street.
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After days of isolation, the psychological toll on Hobson eliminates all his restraint and brings out latent megalomania, acquisitiveness, a hint of gender-identity confusion and wanton destructiveness. A stunning moment involving an assault weapon and a huge crucifix would never fly in an American movie.
But it’s the second half of “The Quiet Earth” that suggests how insidious human beings in small numbers could be. Hobson meets Joanne (Alison Routledge) and Api (Peter Smith). In no time sexual hubris, suspicion, jealousy, race-based assumptions about intelligence (Api is Maori and the others are white) and passive-aggressive violence ensue.
Fans of the 1959 doomsday movie “The World, the Flesh and the Devil” starring Harry Belafonte, Inger Stevens and Mel Ferrer, will find echoes of that film’s complicated love triangle — with its own racial component — in “The Quiet Earth,” albeit with a very different outcome.
That last point leads to Murphy’s dreamy, ambiguous ending, a striking image hinting at karma-generated worlds ahead. It’s a haunting note on which to end this strange, vivid movie.