Sight and Sound - 12/01/2004
"[T]he film exhibits a sci-fi sensibility rooted in Orwell, Kubrick and Kafka..."
Total Film - 01/01/2011 4 stars out of 5 -- "Lucas' biggest set is a bare, bleached-out void, while his primary resource is sound, Walter Murch's dense multi-tracks engulfing us in an oppressive drone of voice and noise."
Description by OLDIES.com:
Like all other drones in the sprawling subterranean technocracy, he has a designation: THX 1138. He's the product of a number-crunching, soul-numbing society. But there's a flaw: He's human and wants out.
George Lucas gave movie lovers notice of the greatness to come with this feature-film directorial debut, seen here in a Director's Cut. Using astonishing visuals and groundbreaking sound effects, Lucas showed the inventiveness he would later bring to American Graffiti and his Star Wars and Indiana Jones epics. Robert Duvall is the hero behind the number, a man who breaks free of the state-required stupor of drugs, learns the liberating power of love and seeks out a brave new world.
In George Lucas's fascinating debut feature (based on his short student film), the filmmaking wunderkind creates a futuristic, underground world in which bald, drone-like workers are forced to take drugs to regulate their moods and stifle their libidos. THX 1138 (Robert Duvall) and his mate LUH 3417 (Maggie McOmie) are factory workers, building the robotic police that keep order in their stark world. The soundtrack to their lives is a news service that continually lists information about factory accidents, as well as sex and drug crimes, à la George Orwell's 1984. There are electronic confessionals where workers admit to mistakes they've made, outlets THX uses to express his unhappiness with his life. When LUH decides she and THX should stop taking their medication, their sense of humanity--and their desire and love for each other as a couple--is unleashed. It's not long, however, before they are imprisoned for this crime, and LUH learns that she is pregnant. Separated from LUH, THX embarks on a journey to find her, with the help of rebel SEN (Donald Pleasence) and hologram SRT (Don Pedro Colley), eventually attempting escape to the outside world.
Combining complex editing and sound techniques with brilliantly subtle performances, THX 1138 is Lucas's less widely regarded vision of life in outer space, though it stands firmly as an awe-inspiring sci-fi spectacle. The film is also eerily prophetic, depicting a world in which television screens are bombarded with sensationalistic news, sexually explicit films, and vapid comedy shows.