Logan’s Run (1976)
★★★ / ★★★★
In a domed city of year 2274, humans are not allowed to do two things: set foot outside the confines of their borders and live past the age of thirty. Thirty-year-old residents are led to believe that by volunteering to take part in Carrousel, a type of a gladiatorial game, their lives will be renewed. Only a select few are aware that life is unable to be reset like a light switch. Instead, they choose to run away and find Sanctuary, a place where people can live for however long their bodies can endure.
Logan (Michael York) is a Sandman whose job is to hunt down Runners. But when the city’s main computer takes four years off his life, triggering the light on his palm to blink red, a signal for an impending execution in the Carrousel, Logan teams up with Jessica (Jenny Agutter), a member of an underground group who helps Runners get away.
Based on the novel by William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson, the film offers very dated special and visual effects but the concepts it tackles are so strong, from dealing with mortality to exercising free will, I found it quite effortless to identify with the protagonists in their quest to capture and possibly expose an elusive truth.
With every obstacle that Logan and Jessica encounter on the way out of the oppressive city, the camera has a way of staying with them like someone is always watching. Even if there is a chaotic explosion, the camera remains still like an unbothered observer. In addition, government cameras are seemingly installed everywhere and a fellow Sandman, Francis (Richard Jordan), is effective in doing his job. It is entertaining because we feel that being captured and killed are always very real possibilities for Logan and Jessica.
Although some action sequences come off as silly, like Logan’s incapability to accurately hit a moving target, especially when he is supposed to be an experienced agent, when deaths are shown, we become that much more eager to watch the tyrannical regime be overthrown.
On another level, the picture works as a critique on our tendency to look more to the future for answers than the past. There is sense of humor in the way Logan and Jessica lack the knowledge about major historical figures like Abraham Lincoln or simple things like the concept of old age. For instance, when they meet an old man (Peter Ustinov) whose sole companions are cats, they wish to touch the wrinkles on his face and ask questions about how it is like to be raised by a mother and father.
However, I felt that the screenplay by David Zelag Goodman is lacking a critical psychological and emotional character arc for Logan. While the pacing is consistent because there is a chase every other scene, Logan’s intentions are sometimes confusing. For instance, after the main computer takes four years off his life, making it clear that he is never going to get it back, why does he decide to push a button on his belt to alert his co-workers of the location of the rebels? It does not quite compute.
Directed by Michael Anderson, “Logan’s Run” is splattered with vivid colors inside the domed metropolis and even more pavonine ideas about what it means to be a human in a mechanized and highly controlled future. Many of its images, despite being set in the future, may now be products of the past but its ideas continue to hold relevance.