Wednesday, July 2, 2014
SNOWPIERCER: Chris Evans, Jamie Bell, Tilda Swinton, John Hurt, Kang-ho Song, Octavia Spencer, Ed Harris, directed by Joon-ho Bong (126 min.)
Just when the postapocalyptic sci-fi landscape in film has started showing rust and staleness, along comes Snowpiercer, a wild and unhinged action thriller with a crazy setting and even crazier characters filling the screen. The premise is intriguing, if not a little silly when you sit and think about it. But that's the thing, don't think about it. Director Joon-ho Bong has achieved what many sic-fi directors cannot these days: he has created a world so unique and so Gonzo that one cannot help get caught up in the plight of these characters, no matter how much reality eludes the story. Snowpiercer is a one of a kind film I did not expect to see when the lights went down.
Within the train, a harsh class system has evolved between the haves and the have nots. Those kept in the tail of the train are poor and crowded, dirty and disheveled, fed only gelatin-like protein bars for every meal. This lower class are guarded heavily from getting to the front of the train, where the rich live in lush cabins and spend their time drinking and dining and enjoying nightclubs and free dental work. Occasionally, Mason (Tilda Swinton) makes a trip to the impoverished to dole out disturbing and creative punishment and set the rules straight once again. Swinton wonderfully chews scenery like she never has before, embellishing some nice idiosyncrasies in the Mason character which would fit well in a Terry Gilliam movie. This very divided system is the New World, but of course with such a divided system, revolution is never far away.
No matter how bizarre or violent Snowpiercer gets, it never dumbs itself down to appease audiences. Things are unclear for a long time, explained only as they would organically happen in conversation. There is no outsider standing in for the audience to get the whole story, so attention is necessary. And this world aboard the train and the increasingly wacky circumstances and situations build and build and deepen the film with every car. There are clever and electric action sequences, but I found myself more involved with the kooky story between these violent outbursts. These characters grow more important the closer they get to their goal, and each and every member aboard this train is compelling in their own right.
Snowpiercer is not a film for everyone, only a certain faction of sci-fi fans looking for a fresh take on a stale premise. I wasn't sure what to expect going into the picture, but what I saw was most certainly not on my radar. It is a pleasant surprise in every weird and oddball way imaginable.