Sunday, August 17, 2014

Snowpiercer: A Review

Snowpiercer (2014)
Directed By: Bong Joon-ho
Written By: Bong Joon-ho and Kelly Masterson
Rated: R
Time: 126 min
Starring: Chris Evans, Song Kangho, Tilda Swinton, Jamie Bell, Octavia Spencer, Ewen Brewmner, Alison Pill, John Hurt, Ed Harris
Plot: "Snowpiercer," based on the French graphic novel "Le Transperceneige," is set in a future where, after a failed experiment to stop global warming, an Ice Age kills off all life on the planet except for the inhabitants of the Snow Piercer, a train that travels around the globe and is powered by a sacred perpetual-motion engine. A class system evolves on the train but a revolution brews.

Comments: Joon-ho Bong has done some great films, The Host and Mother being two of them. Now most people haven’t heard about Snowpiercer or are lucky enough to have it show up in their local theater. I knew that US distributors wanted to cut 20 minutes from the film, but the director wouldn’t budge and good for him. Luckily the same time it is out in theaters, it is also available through our XboxOne.

Based on the French graphic novel Le Transperceneige, created by Jacques Lob, Benjamin Legrand, and Jean-Marc Rochette, Snowpiercer shows a bleak future. Its 2031 and humans have officially destroyed the planet resulting in a bleak and frozen wasteland. The survivors live on a transcontinental train constantly circling the ruined world thanks to the ingenuity of an eccentric industrialist named Wilford. 17 years after the disaster the train may be a key to humanity’s survival but it is not so great for those who live in the tail section. These were the survivors who didn’t pay the exorbitant fees to live in the front sections. They are the have-nots, surviving any which way they can in their dirty, overcrowded quarters. There are no windows, only protein bars for food, and very little hope. That changes when Curtis (Chris Evans) has decided that enough is enough. Take the engine…control the train, control the world.

Along with his friend Edgar (Jamie Bell), and mentor Gilliam (John Hurt) they hatch a plan to rise up against the upper class. But it is easier said than done. Revolts have failed before. It is only after a brutal reminder of their place in this new world and the stealing of two Tail Section children, that they act. But Wilford has his own army ruled by his Prime Minister Mason (Tilda Swinton, who steals every scene she is in) and they are prepared to issue even more cruel brutality. In order for the plan to work, they need to find security expert Namgoong Minsoo (Kang-ho Song) and try to survive their way to the front.

The two things that stand out the most for me were the set designs and Tilda Swinton. Let’s talk about Tilda. I love her to pieces and Orlando continues to be one of my favorite films. As Mason with her horrid fake teeth, expensive furs and decadent splashes of color amidst the tale section’s bleakness she cannot help but stand out. ‘Be a shoe, not a hat’. The other performances are great as well and I continue to believe that Chris Evans is a decent actor as he matures (Sunshine is when I first said hmmm, so much better than Johnny Storm). I guess one of the things that I like about the characters are that there are no black and whites when it comes to morality. Curtis has done some pretty horrible things, but he’s our hero right? Same goes with Gilliam? I love that.

The other thing that really stands out is the sheer beauty of the visuals. As the journey to the front of the train continues we go from bleak grays, browns, and blacks to more and more color. Each train car is unique from the confines of the back to a greenhouse where little old ladies go to knit and have their tea. We have a sushi bar complete with aquarium, a meat freezer, a spa with individual saunas, a pool car, a restaurant or two, a beauty salon, a nightclub with adjacent drug room, and a school (probably one of the craziest and coolest scenes in the film). Seriously I love the train itself.

It’s a great film about social stratification something many of us are all too aware of. It’s a classic battle between the rich and the poor, a theme that has been explored before. But the film is also about, a very socialist idea, that the poor need to exist so that the wealthy have value. Wilford firmly believes that his little world has balance and in order to continue that balance there has to be the haves and have-nots. It’s a crazy little world though where the Tail Sectioners are little more than pawns. They do not do any manual labor in the tail section, they merely exist in their poverty. That is their purpose.

There are some things I didn’t like about the film of course. I hated the ending. In fact I would have liked the film so much more if I hadn’t watched the last 5 minutes as all suspension of disbelief went right out the window. It almost ruined it, but not quite.

Rent/Cinema? Cinema (If you can). While I hated the ending, I did spend the other 2 hours really enjoying the film. It’s beautiful, heartbreaking, absurd, crazy, and thrilling. Completely worth watching.

4/4 popcorns

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