Review: Snowpiercer – The polar oppressed
At first, the apocalypse on a train premise of the new sci-fi film, Snowpiercer, comes off as being rather absurd, and the more you think about it the crazier it seems. Nevertheless, the unlikely setting for this story does make for an entertaining, allegoric and thought-provoking look at class conflict and the dangers of messing with Mother Nature, plus it has some thrilling action sequences and special effects as well.
Based on the French graphic novel, Le Transperceneige, and directed by Korean filmmaker, Joon-ho Bong (The Host), Snowpiercer is a weird mix of genres that reminded me of the movies Silent Running, Runaway Train, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, Logan’s Run, and the video game, Bioshock, all while remaining a unique film experience in itself.
In the year 2014 [Hey, that’s now!], scientists have experimented with some sort of wacky solution to global warming that backfires and turns the world into a giant popsicle. The only survivors of this catastrophe are onboard a train that is powered by a perpetual motion engine created by a mad scientific savior named Wilford (played by Ed Harris.)
The train, Snowpiercer, is a perfect self-sustaining ecosystem with the elite passengers towards the front and the “polar oppressed” in the back; and after almost twenty-years of non-stop circumnavigation of the frozen globe, the peeps in the back cars are getting restless and tired of being the “have-nots.”
When the train’s downtrodden start having their children taken to the front by an evil administrator, Mason (played brilliantly by Tilda Swinton), the leader of a festering rebellion, Curtis (Chris Evans), along with his mentor, Gilliam (John Hurt), and his young friend, Edgar (Jamie Bell), rise up with their poor comrades and charge towards the first-class cars.
As the battle moves forward, the ugly means by which the train survives is revealed, and the rebellion is joined by Namgoong Minsoo (Kang-ho Song) and Yona (Ah-sung Ko), two strung-out drug addicts who have the engineering ability to open all the doors between the cars.
Curtis and his group battle the train’s heavy security, which includes hooded ninjas and a badass grade-school teacher, as they make their way to the Snowpiercer engine room; and along the way the secrets of the train and its passengers are unveiled.
Snowpiercer’s real-lifejourney to the big screen in the United States (the movie has already done very well overseas) has been nearly as long-fought as the one in its onscreen story, with Harvey Weinstein (The Weinstein Company) fighting the director on the length of the film and its bleak ending.
Joon-ho Bong’s vision has won the battle, but with the movie only being distributed to a handful of U.S. theaters (not to mention being released against the latest Transformers fiasco), he may not win the war.
Although Snowpiercer is a “South Korean-American” film, it is mostly English language with very few subtitles. This is a serious and very good science-fiction film, albeit not without some logic problems, but it is head and shoulders above the Transformers and is well worth seeking out (it will be at the Harkins Shea 14, starting July 2, 2014.) Grade: 7/10