* Work asked me to write a film review this week. I’ll probably never do it again, but figured I might as well give it a try one time. Anyway, this is said review. In case you didn’t pick up a paper today and still wanted to see it. Oh, and the movie I reviewed? Snowpiercer.
Snowpiercer’s greatest strength is something pretty simple.
It’s thought provoking.
Considering we’ve hit the halfway point of a Hollywood “summer” season that features Cameron Diaz and Jason Segal making a sex tape, Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum redoing that teen cop shtick, and another damn Transformers movie, Snowpiercer’s attempt to make you think, rather than just churn out 90-odd minutes of the same old thing slightly tweaked, is incredibly refreshing.
The plot itself is relatively straightforward: climate changed, and Earth was left a desolate frozen wasteland. A train, Snowpiercer, has circled the planet for the 18 years that followed. The carriages of the train serve as an overt and omnipresent representation of class structure – the poor are literally the huddled masses at the back of the train, while the rich enjoy life up the front.
The oppressed eventually revolts, reluctantly led by Curtis (Chris Evans), and fights in video game-esque fashion reach the front of the train, where the engine is located. They free Namgoong (Song Kang-ho), a junkie imprisoned in a morgue refrigerator, who knows how to unlock the gates that divide the train. Each carriage acts as a new “level” with its own challenges, while continuing the basic narrative of those that preceded it.
Minister Mason (Tilda Swinton) is the proverbial queen on this moving chessboard, with the goal of the revolters to capture her and force their way to the front, where the prophetic Wilford – who created the train’s eternal engine – is.
The performances of the two leads, which spend the movie in confrontation with one another, are spectacular.
Evans’s is remarkable as the leader of the rebellion, in what is a reminder of the depth he can bring to a character when not hindered by a superhero mask or shield. Swinton is eccentrically brilliant, employing a combination of howling privilege (“I am the head. You are the foot. It’s preordained”) with an undercurrent of fear and desperation to maintain the established order.
Sure, there are plot holes, namely “why” and “how”, but they don’t derail what the film sets out to achieve.
Director Bong Joon-ho creates a visually striking world and used it to tackle a topic that is both increasingly prevalent and often ignored from a mainstream media perspective. Yet, despite the all-encompassing theme of the film, Joon-ho doesn’t attempt to answer it on that same scale.
Joon-ho and his team present the key issue, through the scope of this specific story, and then leave it to the audience to reach their own conclusion.
It is a bizarre, challenging and engaging film.
As the screen flicked to black after 126 minutes, you’re thinking about it. Walking out of the cinema, passing people picking up their 3D glasses for whatever blockbuster they’re, you are still thinking about it – the film demands that continued contemplation.
Personally, that’s much better than a movie about a sex tape.
After getting the fifth “leavin’ for Splendour!!!" text today.