2021, NR, 76 min. Directed by Marshall Burnette. Starring Jeremy Holm, Jill Paice, Jack DiFalco, Jim Parrack, Chris Ellis, James DeForest Parker, Danny Ramirez, Daniel R. Hill, Reegus Flenory, Rebecca Lines.
REVIEWED By Richard Whittaker, Fri., May 7, 2021
Seven percent of Americans think chocolate milk comes from brown cows. If that sounds like a joke, it's not. And if it sounds like a dig at stupid people, it's not that either. The disconnect between modern Americans and their food is at a terrifying level, because the political and social consequences are part of what has caused such astonishing and devastating division between rural and urban America. So if Silo feels like an educational drama, that's because it is and with good reason and double intention.
It's a small disaster movie, built around the terrifying risks caused by grain engulfment. Remember how films in the 1970s taught everyone that quicksand was a leading cause of death? Grain engulfment is the real deal, killing people every year. Basically, it's when someone is in one of those giant grain silos, the grain beneath them shifts, and it just swallows them up. It's a horrifying way to die, and one summed up by a raw sense of powerlessness. The person swallowed up, the community that gets lucky if it can save them. All those elements are captured in Silo as Cody (DiFalco), a small-town kid in a farming community in the middle of nowhere, gets caught as the grain starts to slip. The farmer, Junior (Parrack), Cody's best friend, Lucha (Ramirez), Cody's mother, Valerie (Paice), they can only wait for the next tool they need to arrive, because otherwise he'll die, 10 feet away from their fingertips.
There just aren't that many accurate films about farming. There are those that romanticize it as a pastoral idyll, and those that use the setting while telling stories about the urban world. That Silo centers around the people of the town is what differentiates it from a media satire like Ace in the Hole, and places it alongside The Straight Story, God's Own Country, and Minari: films that feel like studies of rural life. Sumptuously filmed by Hunter Baker, it's a testament to simple but effective filmmaking. There's a text-book drama, and even a few narrative conceits (of course Cody's farmhand/firefighter father died in the last engulfment), but Silo also speaks to truths about these communities, about the endless grind and the lack of infrastructure, about how the only jobs are farms, stores, cops, and nursing homes. It's also become a tool for educating farmers about the perils of grain engulfment. (Distributors Oscilloscope Laboratories are concentrating screenings in rural areas where education about grain engulfment is still lagging around: Additionally, they are donating part of the box office to the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, the Progressive Agriculture Foundation, and the John Bowne Agricultural Program for urban farmers.) With one engulfment death every 30 days for the last half century, that Silo is well-placed to both cut those fatalities and give audiences an insight into farming is admirable.
Available on VOD now.